Healthcare Costs to Dominate Georgia Budget Debate

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Georgia lawmakers will be wrestling with how to pay mounting healthcare costs for retirees, poor children and trauma care patients when they return to the state Capitol on Monday for the 2007 legislative session.

The pricey healthcare prescription is expected to play a lead role in budget negotiations in Atlanta this year.

It comes as revenues in Georgia show signs of slowing and the state is facing a healthcare cost crunch on several fronts.

Officials must decide whether to start setting aside cash to pay for an expected multi-year 20 billion-dollar price tag for the healthcare benefits of retired teachers and state employees.

Unless Congress acts, the state's popular Peach Care health insurance program for children also may run out of money in March, leaving 260,000 children of low-income families without insurance.

And a new legislative study has found the state lacks the trauma care facilities needed to save those with life-life threatening injuries.

The suggested fix would cost 85 million dollars and that would be only a first step.