Bentley considers Medicaid expansion

Times Dailey, Feb. 14, 2015

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Robert Bentley and state Health Officer Don Williamson said last week the state is looking at options for expanding Medicaid to the working poor.

This wouldn't be the expansion under the Affordable Care Act that Bentley and other Republicans have rejected for the past two years.

Gov. Robert Bentley and state Health Officer Don Williamson said last week the state is looking at options for expanding Medicaid to the working poor.

 

This wouldn't be the expansion under the Affordable Care Act that Bentley and other Republicans have rejected for the past two years.

In December, Bentley said he would be open to expanding Medicaid — if the federal government let the state control the money and put requirements on those who receive the health care coverage. He said then he's never been opposed to block grant funding, but he hadn't talked to federal officials about it as a possible expansion mechanism.

"It may not be a block grant as such, but, yes we are talking to (the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services) about the 100 to 138 percent (poverty level) working poor," Bentley said Friday. "My stipulation is that if they are able-bodied, they have to work or they have to be in a workforce training program."

Bentley said at first, the federal office wasn't interested in his proposal, "but they're becoming more interested."

About 300,000 people would receive health care under this expansion; the same number who would have under the Affordable Care Act expansion.

Other states have done similar "outside-of-the-box" Medicaid expansions, said Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper. He has served on various Medicaid-related committees in the past four years. He said he didn't know the details of Bentley's proposal but thinks it could be a good thing.

"I think the general idea of block grants that give the state more control of the resources is a smart thing," Reed said.

According to a recent survey conducted by Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, 52 percent of respondents said they supported using federal dollars to expand Medicaid to low-income adults. About 68 percent said they or someone they know had received health care through Medicaid at some point.

About one in five Alabamians receive health care through Medicaid.

Bill to create spaceport back

Among the legislation that has been pre-filed for the 2015 legislative session that starts next month is a bill that could pave the way for a spaceport in Alabama.

Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, would create the Alabama Space Authority.

The authority is a first step to a federally approved, and partially funded, spaceport where private or government spacecraft are launched.

The authority's mission would be "to promote the research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technologies, sponsor conferences and business roundtables within the aerospace, aviation and related industries, and promote activities and industries related to space exploration ... ."

Similar legislation received the support of some north Alabama lawmakers in 2013, but eventually died.

Two years ago, some questioned the proposed authority's potential bond debt and ultimate cost to the state.

Food assistance for drug offenders?

Another pre-filed piece of legislation is Senate Bill 31, sponsored by Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, which would allow people convicted of drug-related felonies to receive federal food assistance upon completion of their sentences.

Alabama is one of eight states that ban federal benefits of both cash assistance and food stamps to people convicted of felony drug offenses, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Similar legislation passed the state Senate last year but died in the House.

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