I cannot hope to understand the complexity and depth of the budgetary process and the dire circumstances in which we currently find ourselves. I do know that, as a lifelong resident of this state and as a person who serves the population, both rich and poor, that these cuts will severely undermine my ability to deliver services. Most importantly, cutting access to health insurance for this population will increase the uninsured, overrun our emergency rooms, drastically increase costs and cost many professionals their job.
Pediatricians, like me, depend on Medicaid to sustain health-care services for every resident of our state. My office sees a Medicaid volume of approximately 35 percent, and I am very proud of the care we provide. As a medical home to these children, we encourage cost control by reducing duplication of services and unnecessary utilization. As the medical director of one of the new Patient Care Networks, I also work with our care managers to reduce costs by attempting to understand the patient’s life outside of the office.
We know that Bentley has made a pledge to add no new taxes, but we are in a crisis and therefore strongly urge the governor to reconsider for the good of the children of this state the simple increase of $1 in our tobacco excise tax. According to public health statistics, an increase of $1 per pack would create new annual state revenue of $213.3 million, keep 73,200 children from becoming addicted smokers, and save 30,700 lives from premature smoking-cased death.
I simply do not believe that any public official would be held accountable for increasing consumption taxes to raise much-needed funds, and this increase would put Alabama more in line with other states.
I support the governor and the work he does. Please consider this proposal for the good of Alabama, and I will continue to work diligently for our state and its children.