Crisis in Medicaid
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
May 07, 2012 | 1834 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
How important is Medicaid to the people of Alabama?

Medicaid pays for the majority of nursing-home stays.

Medicaid pays for slightly more than half of all maternity deliveries.

Medicaid pays for the medical care for more than 40 percent of Alabama children.

That’s how important Medicaid is to the state.

It will take approximately $602 million to maintain Medicaid at a bare-bones level.

The Alabama House of Representative just passed a General Fund budget that contains $400 million for Medicaid. Gov. Robert Bentley has said that “if we don’t fund Medicaid, our entire health-care system goes under,” and he promises to veto the budget if it passes the Alabama Senate.

So how does the governor suggest the state Legislature come up with the additional $200 million? By tapping into the “rolling reserve fund” — money that is obligated by law to be used to repay the $437 million borrowed from a rainy day fund that must be repaid by 2015.

Once again, the governor thinks he can make the state financially sound by robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s good that legislators, rightly so, are opposing the idea.

Yet, no one wants to see Medicaid collapse. No one wants to see health-care providers, who provide for more than Medicaid patients, abandon the state and leave people who are not on Medicaid without the care they need. No one wants to see the state lose its federal funding because it can’t pay its share.

Actually, won’t pay its share.

A bill to increase sales tax on cigarettes has been introduced in the state Legislature. This revenue would go to Medicaid; though it would not entirely close the gap, it would help. Alabama’s tobacco tax is one of the lowest in the nation. Smoking is a health risk, and many who are on Medicaid are there because of smoking. Studies show that higher prices for cigarettes will reduce the number of people who smoke and the number of cigarettes smoked by those who do. As a result, more people will be healthier and there will be less need for Medicaid.

But the governor has said he will not support a tax increase at “the present time.”

We hope “the present time” passes quickly and Bentley realizes that keeping an ill-conceived campaign promise that will lead the state to the disaster is not the statesman-like thing to do.

Situations change. The governor needs to change to meet them.
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