Georgia Lawmakers Discuss Concerns About Medicaid, SCHIP Beneficiaries

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Georgia lawmakers on Tuesday discussed concerns about low- and middle-income families' access to dental coverage after the state last fall shifted nearly one million Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries to "care management organizations," Morris/Augusta Chronicle reports. PeachCare is Georgia's version of SCHIP.

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Beneficiaries were shifted to care management organizations, which are similar to HMOs, in an effort to reduce costs. However, one of the three companies operating the plans has decided to terminate its contract with a dental provider with several offices in the western region of the state, and two of the plans are considering terminating contracts with a mobile dental lab that operates in counties throughout Georgia.

Lawmakers also are concerned that the plans have stopped accepting new dentists in their networks and by complaints that plans too frequently changet he terms of agreements with existing dentists, according to Morris/Chronicle.State Sen. Greg Goggans (R), chair of the panel that controls state health care funding, said, "If we're talking about a problem with access, why would we limit the number of dentists?"

Kent Jenkins -- senior vice president for communications for AmeriGroup,one of the companies operating the organizations -- said, "The demand for dental care has been much higher than the state or anybody anticipated," adding that prices for dental care in Georgia are much higher than what companies expected when they started the plans nearly a year ago. Jenkins also said the company is not rejecting dentist sout right but is being careful in establishing the terms for dentists who would join the network (Larrabee, Morris/Augusta Chronicle, 8/29).

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Governor Deal, Your decision to not expand Medicaid is shameful. There are several reasons why government is essential and your administration appears to be trying to make itself useless in all of them. You have now added indifference to those who most need assistance to the numerous negatives already massing to further depress our economy and our standard of living. I say this as an employed voter who does not believe your efforts to continuously lower my taxes will benefit Georgia or my family in the long run. Georgia was once a marginally attractive state to live in. I believe your administrations failures will relegate our state to a has been backwater that has no appeal to new residents and poor hope of competing with our neighboring states.