Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Darrio Melton: Medicaid funding must be addressed in a special session

  The 2016 regular session of the Alabama Legislature is in the books, but for many politicos on Goat Hill, it seemed more like a rush to get out of school for the summer so we can get to the "fun stuff" in the coming months.

  Unfortunately for most Alabamians, the trials and investigations don't impact their lives and communities the way the decisions made in the legislature do. For those people, the end of the legislative session meant they're left without solutions to their problems and without answers to their questions.

  This is why we have no choice but to call a special session, and lawmakers have a duty to focus our time and work on finding real answers and solutions, not debating feel-good legislation or wasting time with political posturing.

  Every facet of our state's budget is impacted when we don't fully fund Medicaid.  Remember this is a program that only costs our state 30 percent of the total cost--the bulk of the funding comes from federal dollars--and failing to provide our portion can cause us to lose additional money.

  When we fully fund Medicaid, our healthcare costs drop across the state because the amount of emergency room visits for uninsured individuals decreases, saving hospitals and patients money.

  When we fully fund Medicaid, our jails and prisons feel less strained because patients who need mental health care are better able to receive the care they need and are therefore less likely to find themselves dealing with police intervention resulting in jail or prison time.

  When we fully fund Medicaid, our babies are born healthier and our children are able to grow stronger. Remember that one in three Alabama children is born on Medicaid. This program is critical for prenatal care for healthy mothers and babies.

When we fully fund Medicaid, our education system is able to do more with less.  Teachers are consistently asked to produce results in the classroom when the children they teach are sick, hungry or both. Medicaid allows parents to obtain care for children so they can get healthy faster and learn easier.

  Medicaid funding affects all of us.

  If Gov. Robert Bentley is going to refuse to expand Medicaid and accept billions in federal funding to solve these problems with a stroke of a pen, then it's on us in the legislature to tackle the tough issues and find the difficult solutions to this problem.  Whether the solution is a lottery or a tobacco tax, or some combination of multiple plans, the one thing that is certain is that we must find a solution.

  This special session must be extremely special: it might mark the first time the legislature has been able to compromise and put people over politics.

  The people of Alabama are depending on it, and our budget can't get better without it.  Let's get to work!

  About the author: Darrio Melton is a democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus: DarrioMelton.com.

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