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Congresswoman Roby Warns That Medicaid Expansion Will Imperil States Budgets

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In her monthly newsletter, Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery reminds constituents of a less frequently discussed issue with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) better known as “Obamacare.”  While everyone debates whether or not Obamacare’s individual mandate that we have to buy healthcare insurance is constitutional or not and whether or not Obamacare can force religious institutions to pay for healthcare procedures, they have moral questions about: the costliest part of Obamacare is the massive unfunded liability that it places on our state governments through the impact of Medicaid expansion. 

Representative Roby said, “This week, I participated in an Education and the Workforce Committee hearing to discuss various federal policies that affect the states. During the hearing, I addressed the negative impact Medicaid expansion would have on state government.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, as a result of President Obama’s health care reform law, Medicaid will expand to cover an additional 25.6 million enrollees in the next decade, increasing the cost on states by more than $118 billion through 2023. Medicaid is jointly funded by state and federal government, therefore, the expansion would place a burden not just on the federal government, but on the states as well. As Medicaid is already significantly underfunded, many states are unsure they can devote even more resources to cover this expansion.”

Rep Roby continued, “The Medicaid provision is just one of many included in Obama’s health care law, which would create more government while increasing taxes—directly and indirectly—on Americans. I was sent to Congress to root-out unnecessary federal spending and shrink the size of government. One of the first actions I took after being elected to Congress was vote to repeal the President’s health care law.”

Congresswoman Roby said, “It is important to find ways to encourage affordable health care for citizens without placing additional burdens on state budgets. I look forward to implementing market-based reforms that actually lower cost, increase access, and maintain high quality of care.”

Medicaid commissioner, R. Bob Mullins, Jr., has estimated that Alabama’s part of the Medicaid program will consume about 35.2% of the total 2012 general fund budget. 

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Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville and Chairman of the Alabama House of Representatives Health Committee in remakrs maid earlier to the Alabama Political Reporter said that early estimates show that the state likely will have a $100 million hole in the Alabama Medicaid budget for 2012. That does not include President Obama’s massive expansion of Medicaid that automatically takes effect in 2014 if Obamacare is not repealed.

Commissioner Mullins said that when Medicaid expands it” is estimated that we will require about 92 percent of the General Fund Budget by FY 2020 and that cannot happen,” he emphasized. “Second, because of our economy and the Affordable Care Act, we anticipate an increase of around 500,000 new enrollees in Medicaid by 2014.” Commissioner Mullins said that Medicaid will need another 1000 primary care doctors to meet that level of demand.

Chairman McClendon says that the federally ordered Medicaid expansion in 2014 would be “a doomsday scenario.”  “Every penny in the general fund will go to Medicaid.  We can’t let that happen. We are about maxed out today.  We have no way of paying for that under the current tax structure.”  McClendon hopes that the act, which the state of Alabama is currently suing to block in federal courts will be overturned or repealed.

Medicaid is a shared cost state and federal program designed to assist the poorest among us with their health care costs. However as the economy has deteriorated more and more Alabama citizens have turned to the program for their medical needs contributing to growing deficit spending by the federal government and straining the state of Alabama’s budget.

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According to statistics in Alabama Medicaid’s 2010 report, Alabama has a total population of 4,838,236.  Of those, 1,026,429 (21.2%) are Medicaid eligible.  Alabama has 1,356,124 children.  Of those, 589,894 (43.5%) are Medicaid eligible.  45% of Medicare eligible Alabama residents are Black, 45.6% are white, and 5.4% are Hispanic.  The county with the highest percentage of Medicaid eligible residents is Wilcox with 43.4%.  Shelby County has the lowest percentage of Medicaid eligible residents with just 7.7%.  Alabama Medicaid had a 2010 total budget of $5,394,338,268.  $3,957,178,091 came from the federal government and the remaining $1,437,160,177 came from the State of Alabama.   Medicaid’s Expansion in the number of eligible Alabama residents could cost the taxpayers of Alabama another $1.5 billion or more.

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.  Rep. Roby is unopposed in the March 13th Primary; but she has a Democratic Party opponent in the November 6th General Election.

To read all of Rep. Roby’s column addressing this and other topics:

http://roby.house.gov/press-release/roby-column-february-6-2012

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise

Eddie Burkhalter

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COVID-19 Corona Influenza Virus Molecules Image Stock Photo

The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9. 

UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.

“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said. 

Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.

Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.

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Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.

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Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”

Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.

“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”

Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.

“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.

Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.

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News

Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.

Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”

The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.

Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.

“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”

Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.

“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.

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Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”

Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.

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The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”

Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.

“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”

District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.

“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”

District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” 
Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”

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Elections

Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies

Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C. 

Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.  

But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump. 

“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”

Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”

Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home. 

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“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat. 

“I rest my case.”

You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Economy

New unemployment claims decreased last week

Fewer people joined the unemployment rolls last week compared to the week before.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 7,964 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 8,581 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

Of the claims filed between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, there were 4,032 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s 51 percent, compared to 36 percent the previous week.

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