By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—”I’ll say about Medicaid what I have said all along, there are some in state government that think that Medicaid is only important to poor Alabamians. There are some that think Medicaid is only important to poor black Alabamians. And for those reasons there are those in state government who believe that Medicaid should not be saved first and two should it be saved it shouldn’t be saved in it present form,” strong words from State Representative Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery).
Hubbard is known for speaking his mind, ignoring political niceties in the face of unpleasant realities.
Perhaps the influence of Hubbard’s famous great-grandfather has steeled the young legislator’s spine or perhaps as a man whose district has been carved out from under him he has nothing to lose.
Those who know Hubbard well think it is the former, those who do not might think otherwise.
Hubbard grandfather was Lister Hill (1894-1984). Hill according to Encyclopedia of Alabama was Alabama’s premier lawmaker of the twentieth century. He served in the U.S. Congress for more than 45 years and sponsored 80 pieces of major legislation. As a lawmaker, Hubbard’s great-grandfather, fundamentally founded much of what is today’s medical system when he co-sponsored the 1946 Hill-Burton Act. The Act provided federal funding for hospital construction, especially in rural areas. The Hill-Burton Act was crafted to counter President Harry Truman’s proposed national health insurance. Through his chairmanship, Hill became the leading proponent of federal funding of medical research, by which billions of dollars were eventually allocated to the National Institutes of Health. He also played a crucial role in spreading medical knowledge worldwide by advocating the creation in 1959 of a new National Institute for International Medical Research, according to Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Hubbard attributes his passionate commitment to the betterment and sustainability of medical services for the citizens of Alabama as an obligation that has been handed down from his great-grandfather.
Hubbard says that over the last fifty years Medicaid has become the foundation of our healthcare system. He points that Medicaid is responsible for providing funding for over half the deliveries of babies born in Alabama.
“If Medicaid were to fail many if not most of pediatric offices would close,” Hubbard said. He also says that two out of every three nursing home patients are provided care through Medicaid funding. He question if families of the elderly are going to be financially prepared to deal with paying what it actually cost to care for the aged.
“Alabama is different than many states in that 66 of the 67 counties have community health clinics which go back to the 1946 Hill-Burton Act. Hubbard says, “We have these health clinics today because Medicaid dollars keep them open.”
Hubbard warns that if Medicaid crashes then, “Alabama will go back to pre-1946 healthcare with maybe five or six hospital in the entire state.”
He continues, “If you live in a place like Beatrice your going to be driving to Mobile or Montgomery for healthcare.”
Alabama ranks 49 among the 50 states in infant mortality, “The lack of obstetrics in rural Alabama is a prime reason for infant mortalities,” Hubbard said. “The closest you get to that kind of care are these community clinics, if they close down we will see a rise in infant mortality.”
Hubbard says these are some of the facts that “underscore our dependence on Medicaid.” He goes on the say that without proper Medicaid funding even giants like Children’s Hospital would be forced to shutter their doors.
“Medicaid is a 2.701 match, for every dollar the state puts in the Federal Government matches it by 2.701 dollars,” says Hubbard, “so when we underfund Medicaid we are leaving money on the table.”
Hubbard says that when we fully fund Medicaid that we are getting at greater return on tax dollars than if they were used for another state project. Hubbard says, “Medicaid is not only a necessary investment it is a good investment.”
In our next installment with Rep. Hubbard he lays out some funding ideas and why the legislature ducked its responsibility during the 2012 Regular Session and how the absence of political courage stands in the way of Medicaid reform.