By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced in a press conference that the comprehensive Medicaid reform package that Alabama Republicans have been working on for the last year would be soon introduced in the legislature. Gov. Bentley said that Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville would carry the bill in the Alabama House of Representatives and Senator Greg Reed (R) from Jasper would introduce the bill in the Alabama State Senate. McClendon is the Chairman of the House Health Committee.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ talked with Representative Jim McClendon on Wednesday morning about the Medicaid reform effort. McClendon told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that according to the current working plan, both bills will be introduced on Thursday. McClendon said that there will be a hearing on the Medicaid reform package on Tuesday in the House at 10:00 am.
McClendon said that 938,000 Alabamians rely on the Alabama Medicaid program for their healthcare needs. That number has grown as the economy went into recession and people lost their jobs and healthcare coverage.
Representative McClendon said that only four people have seen the final version of this bill. One of those is Governor Robert Bentley. McClendon said that the Governor supports the bill. McClendon credited Gov. Bentley’s leadership for starting the process. McClendon acknowledged that the recommendations of Bentley’s Medicaid Advisory Commission were the starting point for the legislation which he is sponsoring.
McClendon said that the Medicaid reform bill will radically transform how we fund Medicaid services in the state and that the full reform package will take years to implement.
McClendon said that Alabama Medicaid is transforming from a Provider Fee For Service system to an outcome based system.
Governor Bentley said in his Tuesday statement, “We now have a chance to turn Alabama Medicaid into a program that provides better care while making more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. The Alabama Medicaid Agency is also taking steps to prevent fraud and abuse of the system. Improving Medicaid is a long-term process, and the recommendations provided by the commission will help us put the proper reforms into place, which will benefit patients and taxpayers alike.”
Alabama State Health Officer and acting Medicaid Director Dr. Donald Williamson chaired the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission. Dr, Williamson said, “We are providing a different Medicaid program, one that’s designed locally and implemented locally by people who best understand the local healthcare needs. The commission appreciates the opportunity to serve the Governor and to offer our perspectives on the future of Alabama Medicaid.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Rep. McClendon if the new bill would implement home healthcare and assisted living options for seniors instead of nursing home care in many cases. McClendon declined to reveal specifics of the plan until it becomes public on Thursday.
McClendon said that the bills should be introduced on Thursday and will be available online by the end of the day on Thursday. All the Medicaid stakeholders will have their chance to study the plan over the weekend and comment on it in the hearing on Tuesday.
McClendon said that this reform is necessary for Medicaid to be there for Alabamians well into the future. McClendon said that Alabama Medicaid is growing faster than the Alabama General fund and its growth is hurting other state services as Medicaid takes a larger and larger share of the Alabama General fund budget.
Both McClendon and Bentley have extensive experience in the healthcare sector. Representative Jim McClendon owned an optometry practice in Leeds and Moody for many years prior to retiring. Governor Robert Bentley was the owner of a dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa before being elected Governor.