Saving those that are most in needPublished 5:59am Saturday, May 26, 2012
By: Sen. Roger Bedford
Two weeks ago, the Senate passed an amendment I proposed that would save thousands of lives and fully fund Alabama’s Medicaid program.
As you know our state is facing a budget disaster that could shut down Alabama’s Medicaid program,and force doctors and rural hospitals to close their doors or move out of Alabama.
If we do not find a solution then large portions of our state will not have access to any healthcare services at all.
There is a $200 million hole in our Medicaid program. This will have a long-lasting and disastrous impact on the health and well being of citizens across our state.
For every dollar that Alabama spends toward Medicaid, we get more than two additional dollars in matching funds from the federal government.
So the $202 million shortfall we currently face in Alabama’s Medicaid budget will actually cost our state more than $600 million.
People will die if we do not fund Medicaid. Seniors will be put out of nursing homes. Babies and children will have no health care.
Mothers will not have prenatal care. Businesses will refuse to locate in our state or even leave if we cannot provide basic health care services. Our entire state’s economy will suffer.
Thankfully, we can protect our seniors, families and children without raising taxes on the hard-working men and women of Alabama.
The House version of the budget forces Medicaid to wait for the results of a statewide vote to determine whether or not this vital program would be fully funded.
Instead of having to wait for the results of a vote of the people, my proposal, which was passed in the Senate last week, will transfer $184 million from an oil and gas revenue savings account and from education funds to guarantee full funding for Medicaid.
I stood firm on the principal that our seniors should not have to wait and see if they are going to get the health services they need.
While under my proposal Medicaid is fully funded at $602 million, voters will also have the opportunity to fully fund the Department of Corrections in a November referendum.
Additionally, we amended the budget to use a portion of the governor’s discretionary fund to restore funding for programs that provide prescription drugs for low-income senior citizens and prosthetics to Medicaid patients.
Democrats have always found a way to protect Alabama seniors, children and working families.
My new proposal puts our priorities back in perspective by immediately addressing the financial needs of our seniors and allowing the people to vote on funding for our prison population.
Roger Bedford is a state senator for Franklin County.