PeachCare needs federal funding to continue - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

PeachCare needs federal funding to continue

January 11, 2007

Albany -- Up to 260,000 Georgia families may lose health insurance for their children, unless the federal government comes forward to provide a shortfall in the PeachCare for Kids insurance program.

The state funds part of the program, but lawmakers urged Congress Thursday to fund the 131 million dollars of federal money needed to keep the program going. If it doesn't happen enrolled families may lose insurance coverage come March.

Many Children's Advocacy Groups, health organizations, even private citizens are calling and sending letters to our lawmakers about the importance of Peachcare's service, and why funding is a must. Low-income working parents or those unable to get private insurance for their children benefit, and some say they couldn't pay for health costs without it.

It's not the easiest financially, being a single working mother and raising two children, but Rebecca Pedrero does it. She's able to give her son Ian and daughter Jessica necessary health, dental and vision care, with help from PeachCare for Kids health insurance.

"It helps me out considerably because first of all you just pay every month on it, whether it's $7.50 or $15, and the medicine doesn't cost anything," said mother Rebecca Pedrero.

Prescription medicine to treat both of her children's attention deficit problems can cost up to $100, a price she can't afford without help. Pedrero is only one of thousands of people who need the insurance for their children, and only one of thousands who want lawmakers to keep funding the program.

At the Albany Community Health Institute there is a lot of concern about losing PeachCare. Health providers here are urging Congress members to fund the shortfall. Director Sandy Handwerk says that's because more than 260,000 families statewide will lose out on the low-cost insurance and proper healthcare for their children.

"They need to be in a medical home, where their physician knows their history, and can also provide preventive care for them, immunizations, flu shots," said Handwerk.

Handwerk says unless the federal government funds 131 million dollars toward PeachCare, families who use the insurance to pay for their healthcare will lose it in just a few months. Hard-working families who need the quality insurance, like Rebecca Pedrero's. She wouldn't be able to afford healthcare or insurance for her children without the program.

"I couldn't imagine. I'd probably be in debt and probably having to make small payments," said Pedrero.

Payments Pedrero doesn't have now thanks to the low-cost insurance program, but payments she may be forced to make, unless the government continues funding PeachCare.

Georgia is one of 17 states nationwide facing a shortfall in federal dollars toward child healthcare for low-income families. It may be as early as next month when families enrolled get a letter saying the program is all over.

In 1997 Congress expanded funding healthcare for children of low-income families, a year later Georgia's State House used part of that funding along with state money to create Peachcare for Kids health insurance. Up to 10,000 Southwest Georgia children benefit from the program.

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