The state of Alabama has approximately one million people who receive their healthcare through Medicaid. Nearly half of those are children. Alabama’s population is just shy of five million, so over one of every five Alabamians rely on Medicaid for their basic healthcare needs.
The Alabama Legislature last week overrode powerless Governor Robert Bentley’s veto of the General Fund budget, which underfunds Medicaid to the tune of $85 million. Experts predict that this woeful lack of funding will cause the federal government to withdraw its Medicaid matching funds, which will cause hospitals to close and physicians to flee the state. This, in turn, will remove access to basic healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians, especially those in rural areas which will be hardest hit by the draconian cuts in the immoral budget passed by the legislature. Alabama’s plan to shift its Medicaid program to a managed care system will become a pipe-dream.
All this in a state that already ranks at the bottom nationwide in practically every major measure of public health, including obesity, child mortality, diabetes, life expectancy, and heart disease.
Now before you get all misty-eyed about how poor old Bentley is trying his best to stop the mean legislature from enacting this healthcare disaster-in-the-making, remember that this is the same governor who refused to accept what would have amounted to $3 billion (with a “b”) in federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Why did he do that? Because Obama, that’s why. It won Bentley political points to be “standin’ up to Obama” like Dick Shelby, and those political points meant more to him than the well-being of the people of Alabama. It meant more to him than the 15,000 jobs and $2.6 billion in positive economic impact that expanding Medicaid would have given the state. In 2014, Bentley opposed Alabama’s receiving free federal money to benefit the state’s poor and its healthcare system simply because the law was called Obamacare. Obama is black, you know.
The governor’s change of heart is far too little, and comes way too late. And now that he has lost even the slightest amount of influence in Montgomery because of his fling with former senior policy adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley’s change of heart is completely irrelevant to the current debate.
The GOP supermajority in the legislature is contemptible. The conservatives now running our state take too much money from dark money contributed by rich people and corporations that seek to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and so they refuse to enact sensible tax reforms that would easily pay for the relatively small shortfall in the General Fund budget.
They would rather people die from lack of access to healthcare.
Governor Bentley’s decision to reject federal money to expand Medicaid is just as contemptible. A Harvard study concluded that refusing the expansion would inevitably result in premature and avoidable deaths because of the lack of access to the healthcare system.
Both the legislature and the governor share fault in the situation we find ourselves in now. If this budget is not amended before it goes into effect on October 1, Alabama’s healthcare system will be crippled and people will die.
That should be unacceptable to everyone in this state.