By House Minority Leader, Representative Craig Ford
I have been very disappointed to read that Gov. Bentley has chosen to hand over control of the state’s health insurance exchange to the federal government. Federal law requires the state to set up an insurance exchange. Because the governor has refused to follow the law, the federal government is going to set up the exchange anyway and without any input from the people of Alabama.
Gov. Bentley was originally a supporter of setting up a health insurance exchange. He even set up a commission to study implementing the exchange and asked three companies for proposals about how they would set up the exchange. But Gov. Bentley has flip-flopped on the exchanges, and now says he opposes them.
When Gov. Bentley announced his reversal, he said he changed his mind because the exchange would not be run by the states and because we could not afford the $50 million he estimates it would cost to set up the exchange.
But just this Summer, the Governor and his staff were referring to that $50 million as “free money” because it would come from the federal government – tax dollars that we already paid and would actually be getting back.
So what changed? The facts are the same. The health insurance exchange will be implemented as required by federal law. Alabamians will continue to pay for it with our federal tax dollars.
What has the governor accomplished by his stance?
The only thing the governor has accomplished is to take away our chance to be in control of the exchange. And for what? This choice isn’t in the state’s best interests. It doesn’t protect the state’s rights or stop the exchanges from being created. This choice is about playing politics, plain and simple.
It is also very disappointing that the governor has refused to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The expansion would have been almost completely paid for by the federal government, and the state would have had the option to back out of it at any time if we were not able to continue paying our part for it. We are leaving millions of dollars on the table, but more importantly we are leaving thousands of Alabamians without healthcare.
The governor’s decisions have not been in the best interests of the people of Alabama. Instead, the governor is playing politics so he can appear like he is fighting Obamacare, when all he has really done is turn over these crucial decisions to the federal government and lost an opportunity to get our federal tax dollars back.
The people of Alabama deserve more than political games. If we can get our tax dollars back and take some control over how the Affordable Care Act will be implemented in Alabama, then we should jump at that chance. But the governor has chosen to surrender our control and send our tax dollars to other states that will expand their Medicaid programs and create insurance exchanges using our tax dollars. Gov. Bentley made the wrong choice.
Representative Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus. He was re-elected Minority Leader in 2012.