Rep. Channell visits Madison Health and Rehab Center
Georgia Representative Mickey Channell (Dem.) visited the Madison Health and Rehab Center last Saturday to discuss the proposed cuts to Medicaid funding with a group of concerned residents.
Georgia Senator Faye Smith was also scheduled to attend the meeting, but was unable to attend due to illness.
Rep. Channell reviewed a bill he submitted to the state legislature titled the "Georgia Long-Term Care Federal Partnership" that is intended to compensate for some of the funding cuts without a tax increase. However, in Saturday’s meeting, Rep. Channell explained that "temporary revenue enhancements" to the state budget would be necessary in order to continue providing the level of health care currently offered by the state of Georgia.
"We’re going to have to make very a painful choice," said Channell. "We either have to decrease programs and services, or increase taxes. In my opinion, I don’t see any other choice but to try and raise our revenues."
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s proposed 2004 fiscal budget currently calls for a 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements from the federal level, a cut which would total $108 million, including some $33 million that is sent to private nursing home care. In lieu of the budget cuts, some nursing homes are now questioning whether they would be able to continue operating and providing resident care.
"The Georgia state budget should reflect the priorities of its people," said Channell. "Deep cuts in nursing homes, at a time when they need it most, does not reflect our priorities."
Concerned citizens met several weeks ago to discuss the impact of the proposed budget cuts. Following that meeting, representatives of the Madison Health and Rehab Center were able to solicit some 1,700 signatures to send to the state legislature and express their concern.
Rep. Channell also mentioned the possibility of a state sales tax increase as a means of effectively amending the 2004 fiscal budget, which currently lists a $800 million deficit. According to Channell, who is the current Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, an increase of one cent from the current rate of four percent would provide enough funding to continue providing the services and programs included in the health care program.
Approximately 85 percent of all nursing home residents’ costs are paid for by Medicaid spending, and that figure rises even higher in rural areas.
"I happen to very much disagree with Gov. Perdue’s budget priorities," Channell told the crowd. He said that residents should continue contacting their representatives and expressing their concern, as well as expressing their willingness to provide increased funding via a revenue enhancement such as a tax increase.