Dems May Keep Peachcare Afloat

ATLANTA (AP) - Hours after a state health board voted to halt the enrollment of new children in PeachCare, officials trumpeted news from Washington that could keep the health insurance program for poor children afloat.

Democratic leaders in Congress said today that they will include $735 million in the Iraq war supplemental budget to fund the shortfall in PeachCare and children's health programs in 13 other states.

Earlier in the day things looked bleak. The state Board of Community Health voted unanimously to freeze enrollment starting Monday. Georgia Health Commissioner Dr. Rhonda Medows announced last month that a freeze was needed to deal with a $131 million federal shortfall for the state program.

Medows reiterated today that PeachCare is set to run out of money by the end of the month, although she signaled that might not mean the program will stop when the funds do. She said officials believe Congress will come through with a commitment.

Rules require Georgia to provide 30 days notice to participants that the program will end. That would bring the end date into April. Medows said the program might run into the red to bridge the gap. She said healthcare providers would continue to be reimbursed.

The PeachCare shortfall has ground the state Legislature to a halt. Georgia lawmakers are in the midst of a two week break designed to give Congress time to resolve the funding impasse.