By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed an executive order to establish the Alabama Medicaid Commission.
Gov. Bentley said, “We are committed to increasing efficiency, eliminating fraud and maintaining patient care. We believe we can deliver higher-quality care while also controlling costs. The Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission will help us accomplish this.”
Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard said on Facebook, “Medicaid is among the largest consumers of your tax dollars, and if it’s allowed to grow unchecked and unreformed, it has the potential of bankrupting our state.”
Gov. Bentley said, “The Commission will include members who are all dedicated to quality healthcare. We’ll listen to the perspectives of consumers, physicians and many others. By receiving their input and thoroughly reviewing Medicaid’s finances, we can make informed and responsible decisions about increasing efficiency and improving care.”
Gov. Bentley has appointed State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson as the chairman of the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission. Dr. Williamson said, “This is the next step in the transformation of Medicaid. This represents an opportunity to fundamentally change the funding and delivery system for the better. I am honored to be asked to help with this important task.”
Gov. Bentley appointed Alabama State Senator Greg Reed to the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission. Sen. Reed said, “The decisions we make regarding Medicaid will have an effect on healthcare for all Alabamians. Our goal is to make the right decisions for today and for our healthcare future. I look forward to serving with this Commission.” Sen. Reed is the Co-Chairman of the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Medicaid Policy and is the chairman of the Senate Health Committee.
Alabama State Representative Greg Wren has also been appointed to the Commission. Rep. Wren said, “The Legislature looks forward to working with Governor Bentley and Dr. Williamson as we address the critical Medicaid financing issues in advance of the 2013 Legislative Session, beginning February 5, 2013. Taxpayer funding for Medicaid programs has doubled over the past 10 years and now consumes nearly one-third of our state’s General Fund budget. Building a sustainable Medicaid finance structure is imperative.” Rep. Wren serves as chairman of the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Medicaid Policy.
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston said, “There’s a great deal of credit owed to Governor Bentley, Senator Reed, Representative Wren, Dr. Williamson and each member of this Commission for their willingness to join forces and work toward finding long-term solutions to systemic problems in Alabama’s Medicaid program. Working together, along with providers and end users, our goal is to reduce costs to taxpayers without jeopardizing critical services to those who rely on Medicaid.”
Speaker Hubbard said. “I am convinced this Commission can find innovative ways to continue providing adequate healthcare to the poorest among us while also keeping those services affordable and accountable to the taxpayers who fund them.”
Gov. Bentley said, “This is the latest step in an ongoing effort to increase efficiency across state government. We are committed to making the wisest use of the resources given to us by taxpayers, and this Commission is the latest example of how we are following through with our commitment.”
Alabama Medicaid’s generous benefits have been getting increasingly expensive for the state of Alabama to maintain over the last decade. Some conservatives in the state legislature wanted to finally limit the growth of the program in the 2013 general fund budget. Some liberals proposed tax increases to fund Medicaid. Ultimately the legislature decided to raid the Alabama Trust Fund for the next three years to continue to fund the costly program. Gov. Bentley is hoping that the state will either discover new revenues or substantial new efficiencies to pay for the Alabama Medicaid Program at the end of that time. Medicaid is a social entitlement created during the Lyndon Johnson Administration of the 1960s.