Governor Perdue Attacks Health Care in Georgia
(APN) ATLANTA –“Our state has an absolute moral obligation to protect and care for children receiving state services. Georgians are a compassionate people and we all share in the responsibility of caring for the children of this state,” Governor Sonny Perdue states on the Governor’s website.
His official quote sure sounds principled and definitive.
However, Perdue’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget cut case management fee reimbursements to doctors in the Georgia Better Health Care program from $3 per patient per month to $2, resulting in $8 million cuts. He also cut physician Medicaid and Peachcare reimbursements by 10%, leading to a $72.3 million cut, according to the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) website.
Even though some new funds were added in the budget for physicians reimbursements, the net cut was $54.3 million.
Frances Owen, a pediatrician, serves more low-income children than any other physician in Glynn County.
She came to Atlanta to testify before the board of the Department of Community Health about the budget cuts.
The reduction, she said, could mean she would no longer be able to maintain her practice. “If I leave, there will be 2,000 kids without a place to go,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper (AJC).
Later, Perdue vetoed a provision in the Fiscal Year 2003 and 2004 budget bill which had removed caps the Governor wanted implemented in the enrollment and expenditures of the Peach Care for Kids health insurance program.
Children’s advocates were also upset when the premiums for children ages six years and over were increased.
“The combined effect of Governor Perdue’s inability to properly fund the state’s health care system and his insistence on forcing 1 million Georgians into HMOs has put the mental health system in Georgia on the verge of collapse,” Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) stated on their website.
“As a group, we are concerned the combined results [of funding cuts] could lead to a perfect storm whereby the entire structure of community behavioral health services for the poorest and most challenged of consumers collapses,” wrote the Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards to Perdue’s health adviser, James Tomey.
A copy of the July 28, 2006, letter can be found on the DPG website.
Dr. William Hardcastle, President of MAG, sent a letter to Perdue dated August 1, 2006, “to express our deep concern about the serious operational deficiencies occurring in the Medicaid program.”
“In February 2005, the Medical Association of Georgia expressed to you our concern the current Medicaid HMO would not solve and would in fact exacerbate the problems you sought to address with the new model of care,” Hardcastle wrote.
As a result “ many children are unable to have specialty care -orthopedic, neurology, urology, etc – in a timely manner or not at all,” the letter, which is available on the MAG website, said.
Perdue’s cuts were also felt by the elderly poor and sick.
The same Fiscal Year 2004 budget cut funding to nursing homes by 6.8 percent and 10 percent for other medical providers.
“Only nursing homes attached to small critical access hospitals are exempt from the $27.7 million cut,” The AJC reported.
“Our backs are to the wall, Fred Watson, president of the Georgia Nursing Home Association,” told The AJC.
“The most frail and vulnerable people in our state are the ones that usually get cut when there’s a budget problem,” he said. “Some nursing home operators said they might not be able to stay open.”
“This is a death sentence to me,” Davene Johnson, a nursing home administrator in Thomson, near Augusta, told The AJC. “We will not be able to make payroll.”
Meanwhile, in more election-year grandstanding, Perdue announced on September 13, 2006, his plan to eliminate state taxes from all retirement income – pensions, annuities, investments – no matter how wealthy the recipients.
Like his 2003 bill that exempted the first $35,000 in retirement income for those over 62, the elderly poor who are forced to work will continue to pay full taxes on their earnings, according to The Athens Banner-Herald Newspaper.
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Betty Clermont is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. She may be reached at email@example.com
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