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Alabama Budget Guts Medicaid Program

April 12, 2012

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a Fiscal Year 2013 Budget on April 10 that slashes the Medicaid program by 30 percent — $175 million — which would result in a Medicaid budget of $400 million if the proposal is signed into law.

More than 900,000 Alabamians depend on Medicaid for their health care coverage, including many direct-care workers.

Don Williamson, M.D., who heads up the Alabama Department of Public Health and has been charged with overseeing a Medicaid Task Force, said that “the agency may be forced to reduce payments to doctors, hospitals, and other health providers that serve Medicaid patients.”

Williamson is seeking ways to cut Medicaid programs while at the same time complying with federal Medicaid requirements. However, he has been reported to say that the “proposed budget would not only lead to cuts to optional services, but cuts to programs mandated by the federal government.”

For every $1 that Alabama spends on Medicaid, the federal government matches it with $2, compounding the state’s Medicaid budget loss.

“I don’t think there’s any way in the world any human being can make this budget work at $400 million without serious cuts to someone,” Williamson said.

Will Mean Job Losses

“If nursing homes and other medical-related facilities are forced to make cuts, that will mean job losses,” SalLee Sasser-Williams, an Alabama nursing home owner, told the Andalusia Star-News.

In the meantime, the Star-News reports that Williams is “looking for small cuts that don’t affect patient care” and depending on volunteers to take on tasks such as resident activities, which “frees our activities director to do other things.”

The Alabama Nursing Home Association issued a statement saying that, “We agree with Dr. Williamson that current budget figures for the next fiscal year will make it virtually impossible to avoid serious cuts in the access to care and the quality of care delivered. As Dr. Williamson observed, some of the cuts we may face could mean life or death for many.”

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), a physician, is opposed to raising taxes or other revenue, including increasing the cigarette tax, a measure supported by the House Democrats.

The proposed cuts come on top of a recent 10.6 percent across-the-board budget cut to the state’s General Fund this fiscal year.

“Medicaid cuts this severe will hurt families, health care workers, and many direct-care employers at a time when families are already hurting economically,” said Carol Regan, PHI director of government affairs. “Advocates at the state and national level must continue to protect American families and fight for a strong safety net.”

— by Deane Beebe

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