Even as state lawmakers consider cutting 25 percent from a hopelessly underfunded Medicaid budget, some have drafted a bill “vesting regulatory authority over health care in the states” and suspending federal health-care regulations.
It is, of course, a partisan stab at the Affordable Care Act.
The bill would set up a compact of member states that would, independent of the federal government, set up its own health care system.
The theory promoted by the bill is that this independent organization of states could better “protect individual liberty and personal control over health care decisions.”
Implicit in the bill is the premise that we in Alabama can take care of our own. Yet the lawmakers are pushing the bill at a time when the state is showing its inability to provide minimum levels of care to those who need it.
Gov. Robert Bentley says we can only balance the fiscal 2013 budget by removing hundreds of mentally ill patients from state hospitals. We must, he says, end coverage for artificial limbs and eyeglasses.
As we rail against the federal role in providing care to the 1 million Alabamians who are on Medicaid, our residents depend on the fact that every dollar of state spending is matched by $2.18 in federal funds.
Forty percent of Alabama children are enrolled in Medicaid. Half of all births in the state are covered by Medicaid. Sixty-three percent of nursing home costs in the state are covered by Medicaid. Those children and seniors can’t provide for themselves.
Most Alabama adults only qualify for Medicaid if they are living at 11 percent of the poverty level — $2,500 a year for a family of four.
Alabama’s Medicaid costs keep increasing because many of our people were hit hard by the recession.
Alabama is a poor state. Most of its people are less worried about the source of their health care than about whether they can meet their own immediate health needs and those of their families.
With huge Medicaid cuts projected for fiscal 2013, Alabamians dependent on the program are facing a crisis. High unemployment and steadily decreasing wages mean that many have no other way to obtain basic medical treatment.
Instead of making political points about states’ rights, our legislators should be looking for ways to work with the federal government to meet our state’s pressing health care needs.
The federal government is not the enemy in providing care to the neediest Alabamians, but an essential partner.