Political Notes – Georgia gets bonus for childrens’ healthcare coverage

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Georgia’s success at getting more children enrolled in PeachCare, the state’s version of the federal children’s health insurance program (CHIP), has earned the state a bonus amounting to nearly $2 million.

An official with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday that Georgia is one of 23 states receiving a total of $306 million in “performance bonuses” for its efforts in streamlining the enrollment process and increasing participation in the program.

“The more children they enroll, the higher the bonus,” CMS Deputy Administrator Cindy Mann said in a conference call.

Georgia’s $1.94 million bonus for 2012 is at the lower end of the 23 states – Colorado is receiving $42.9 million and Maryland $36.5 million.

“What this signals is that we could be doing more to enroll and retain eligible children in public health insurance options,” said Danté McKay, associate policy director for child health at Voices for Georgia’s Children.

“Further, I am disappointed that we are leaving money on the table,” McKay said. “When I look at the total awards that our neighbor Alabama has received since the performance bonuses were established ($43 million), and compare to our awards ($6.8 million), I wonder what they are doing that is so different from us.”

The bonuses were established as part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) and have been awarded each year since 2009. Georgia received a $4.97 million bonus in 2011.

To qualify for a bonus, a state must implement at least five out of eight specific program features and must increase children’s enrollment in Medicaid above a baseline level for the fiscal year.

Westmoreland proposal signed into law

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Coweta County Republican, saw one of his legislative proposals signed into law by President Barack Obama this week: the Better Use of Refrigeration Regulations (BURR) Act.

The proposal was part of the energy bill known as H.R. 6582, the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act, that Congress passed in December.

Westmoreland’s measure reduces the regulatory requirements on deli-style display cases by placing these Service-Over-the-Counter (SOTC) refrigerator units into a separate product classification.

“These SOTC units are what you would call display coolers, like what you would see deli meat or ice cream stored in at the grocery store,” Westmoreland said. “They have more glass and lighting that make reaching the energy standards virtually impossible. It’s just another example that the one size fits all approach to regulations does not work.”

Olens says tobacco dispute is resolved

Attorney General Sam Olens and his counterparts in other states have resolved a 10-year dispute with four tobacco companies related to payments under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between the tobacco industry and the states.

The new agreement will bring Georgia $56 million in 2013 and ensures continued payments in the future, Olens said in a statement released by his office.

“This settlement is important for Georgia, particularly in this challenging budget environment,” said Olens. “Under the terms of the settlement, we avoid the possibility of costly litigation and the potential loss of the entire annual MSA payment.”

In 1998, the major tobacco companies agreed to pay states more than $200 billion over 25 years to settle lawsuits over the health care costs related to smoking. For the past ten years, there has been a disagreement about portions of the payments.

GEFA loans to three cities

The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) has approved loans totaling $836,684 for water and sewer projects in the cities of Edison, Jeffersonville and Patterson.

Edison was awarded a $412,634 Georgia Fund loan, Jeffersonville will get a $66,000 loan and Patterson was awarded a $358,050 loan.

In the world of fundraisers

Brandon Beach, who’s supported by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other notables in his campaign against Sean Jerguson for Chip Rogers’ old Senate seat, held a kickoff fundraiser at the Olde Blind Dog in Crabapple:

Prominent among the other presenters were elected officials from Cherokee County: Commission Chairman L.B. “Buzz” Ahrens, Commissioner Jim Hubbard, Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison, Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman and Board of Education Chairwoman-elect Janet Read.

Other supporters at the kickoff included Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood and, although Roswell is not in District 21, Roswell Mayor Jere Wood.

Other supporters signing on include former Atlanta Brave John Smoltz, Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann and state Rep. Chuck Martin.

Beach, a member of the State Transportation Board, ran unsuccessfully against Rogers last summer in the Republican primary for Senate District 21. Rogers stepped down before being sworn in to a new term in the Senate to accept a state job with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

PSC Chairman Tim Echols, who’s not up for reelection until 2016, is holding his own fundraiser on Jan. 8 at the 191 Club in Atlanta (the hours are 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.). The sponsorship levels range from $100 to $500, but the invitation says if your business is regulated by the PSC, a lunch ticket is $25 and “no contribution allowed.”

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Brandon Beach , Cindy Mann , CMS , GEFA , Lynn Westmoreland , PeachCare , Sam Olens , Sean Jerguson , Tim Echols , tobacco settlement