Georgia Governor Ask Congress For Help

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Governor Perdue pleaded with Congress today to
find a quick fix that would prevent the state from dropping more than 270,000 children from its Peach Care health insurance program as soon as next month.

But barring a last-minute rescue that would cost at least several hundred million dollars, it is growing increasingly likely that the state won't get more federal money in the short-term and that working-class families participating in Peach Care could be asked to shift to Medicaid, at least temporarily.

Visiting Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Finance Committee and lobby lawmakers, Perdue said it isn't clear when the state would be forced to notify Peach Care families of coverage loss. Previously, state officials said the program would run out of money in March and that letters could go out in February, but Perdue said the state is trying to find more time.

Perdue acknowledged that shifting the families to Medicaid is a possibility. But that would cost the state far more in matching money, and Perdue made clear he believes it's a bad option.

The federal-state Children's Health Insurance Program was designed to cover children whose families make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, which is intended for the poorest citizens, but not enough to afford health insurance for their children. It is a block grant program, with Washington sending money to each state based on a formula that reflects population, income levels, health care costs and other factors.

Georgia is not the only state facing a shortfall; at least a dozen others have similar problems. But Georgia could become the first to run out of money.