Ala. Democrats push to extend Medicaid; Gov. Bentley stands firm - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Ala. Democrats push to extend Medicaid; Gov. Bentley stands firm


The 11-member Senate Democratic Caucus officially submitted its entire 2013 legislative agenda, Tuesday.

How short is it? The agenda is very short, as in, one bill.

Senate Democrats filed a bill Tuesday that would pave the way for the state to expand the enrollment of its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

"It's the biggest economic development project in Alabama's history," Sen. Roger Bedford, D – Russellville, said on the Senate floor.

As Bedford asked for co-sponsors some Republican members of the Senate laughed at him.

Those laughs came at least in part because there is very little Republican support in the legislature, not to mention the executive branch.

"I am not for expanding a broken system" Gov. Robert Bentley told reporters today, reaffirming his stance to leave the enrollment as it is. "The system in Alabama is very broken."

A spokesperson for the governor said she wouldn't speculate on his position if the legislature made all of the proposed changes from the Medicaid Advisory Commission, a group Gov. Bentley appointed last year to come up with improvements to Alabama's Medicaid Agency which is now more than one-third of the state's total operating budget for non-education agencies.

"It just doesn't make any sense" said Sen. Priscilla Dunn, D – Bessemer. "Not expanding it is one of the worst things I could think about."

A recent study by the University of Alabama-Birmingham concluded that the state could see an economic impact of around $400 million dollars if the state were to expand Medicaid. That doesn't include a possible $1 billion in new tax revenue.

Republican governors in other states have recently backtracked on their positions to not expand Medicaid. The governors of Arizona, Ohio, and Florida have all announced their plans to expand the programs in the respective states.

The movement to open the program also received a boost Tuesday, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a staunch opponent of the federal healthcare law, announced he would expand Medicaid to the hundreds of thousands in his state without health insurance.

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