Kids insurance program is in trouble - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Kids insurance program is in trouble

February 8, 2007

Albany -- More than 270,000 children in the state of Georgia are covered by PeachCare, the state's health insurance program. But the program is running out of money.  

PeachCare needs more than $131 Million to continue operating this year. Not only are they refusing to accept more children, coverage for those already in the program may run after by the summer.      

It's news that comes as no surprise. PeachCare Kids has been in trouble for a while, but now the forecast for its future is even darker.  

"I think it will have a devastating effect on the healthcare of our citizens." Dr. Frank Middleton, an administrator at Phoebe Putney Hospital, says kids without health insurance won't be taken to the doctor for primary care, and will only go when they're sick.  "The children are likely not to access early care, which is far more important in primary care and early care for illnesses. They end up getting sicker. It ends up costing more for the community and child, and the family, and the outcomes are not as favorable."

But when they do go for treatment, they won't be turned away. Public hospitals like Phoebe will foot the bill, even when it's not fair.  "We won't refuse care, obviously. We will take care of these children, but we won't get reimbursed."

The 270,000 children currently on PeachCare Kids won't be affected by the changes, for now that is. In a statement posted on the Department of Community Health's website today, Commissioner Dr. Rhonda Meadows said, "As long as the PCK has money to operate, your children will receive care under the terms of their current enrollment."

But that money is running out as well. And if Congress doesn't step up to the plate and send in some relief, the account will be dry by May. "We have that obligation and burden to take care of these people, so I hope the people in Atlanta and Washington are listening," said Middleton.

So that Georgia's little ones can grow up healthy.          

Georgia isn't alone in its insurance crisis for kids. Fourteen other states also face shortfalls. PeachCare for Kids will no longer accept new enrollees to the program as of March 11th.

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