By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday the Alabama House of Representatives passed HB 109, the Medicaid Block Grant Compact. The bill if passed and implemented would give the state of Alabama unprecedented control over the benefits and qualification standards of the extremely costly Alabama Medicaid program.
The bill was sponsored by State Representative Mike Ball (R) from Madison.
Representative Ball said in a written statement, “Medicaid currently gobbles up more than a third of the money in the General Fund budget, but the federal government gives Alabama and other states little authority to decide how the program is run or how those dollars are spent. In essence, Medicaid is a clear cut case of taxation without representation. Washington, D.C.’s cookie cutter approach to Medicaid has given us a bloated, out-of-control monster that threatens to one day bankrupt our state, and it’s time for Alabamians to be given a chance to put the monster on a diet.”
Alabama Medicaid has been almost solely responsible for the repeated general fund budget crises that have befallen the state over the last several years and Rep. Ball warned that regulations and requirements associated with ObamaCare threaten to make the already unaffordable Medicaid program even more expensive for the state to operate.
Rep. Jim McClendon (R) from Springville told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that the federal government solely determines what the level of income is needed to qualify for Medicaid and what benefits the costly entitlement program must offer. Then the taxpayers of Alabama are stuck paying for ~35% of the total cost of the expensive program. The Medicaid Compact would allow the state of Alabama much more control over how that money is spent. McClendon said that the Compact would still have to be passed by Congress to actually be implemented. If passed by the Alabama Senate, signed by the Governor, and approved by the federal government the state would get the federal government’s Medicaid money as a block grant.
According to the Alabama House Caucus’s press release the Medicaid Compact, “Would allow Alabama to join with several other states in asking Congress for more control over important decision-making in the Medicaid program, including, but not limited to, who is allowed to enroll and what benefits a participant may receive.”
Unlike the federal government which can simply print however much money it wants and borrow 40% of its operating budget from future generations, the state of Alabama has to actually live within the revenues that come in through taxes.
The Alabama House Republican Caucus said that HB 109 is designed to combat the most overreaching expansions and mandates of ObamaCare.
House Bill 109 passed 68 to 27.
Rep. Ball said, “By passing this bill, Alabama is taking an important step toward loosening ObamaCare’s suffocating grip on our lives, our money, and our health care choices.”
McClendon said that there are several bills addressing the Medicaid program that have been introduced in this legislative session. McClendon’s HB 110 which addresses fighting Medicaid fraud also passed in the legislature on Thursday. McClendon said that three more bills addressing Medicaid fraud are in the committee process. McClendon also said that Rep. Kerry Rich has sponsored a bill which would allow the state to drug test Medicaid beneficiaries when the state has probably cause to believe that the Medicaid recipient is using illegal drugs. The state could then deny costly Medicaid benefits to criminal drug users.
The Medicaid Compact bill is part of the House Republican Caucus’ 2013 “We Dare Defend Our Rights” Legislative Agenda.