By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In Montgomery, it is not always easy to connect the dots on a particular piece of legislation or policy, but the latest round of news stories coming from the Office of Gov. Robert Bentley makes it apparent, that the governor wants to expand Medicaid and pay for it with a State lottery.
For well over a year, the Governor has said he would expand Medicaid under certain conditions. Recently, he has said he would consider a “clean” lottery proposal that supports the State General Fund Budget, (SGF) which is always woefully underfunded because of Medicaid and prisons.
So, the idea of expanding Medicaid and paying for the cost with a lottery is how the puzzle pieces go together.
If lottery critics are to be believed when they say gambling preys on the poor, then the same crowd should take comfort that the expansion of Medicaid will be paid for by those who are receiving its benefits. Of course, this is a silly, cynical notion.
From an ethical standpoint, I have problems with zero sum games played for money. But, as a citizen of a democratic republic, I believe the people should be allowed to vote. If the people want a lottery of bingo and dice, the government should regulate, tax and get out of the way.
For years, the Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare, has been derided as the “Worst piece of legislation ever,” and it very well may be. But for all the bluster, handwringing and shouts of over-turning the ACA, nothing has been done beyond pandering.
In legislation, as in life, the realities on the ground must be faced with clear-eyed pragmatism, and not the false hope of political rhetoric.
Insurers are not happy with Obamacare, hospitals want it, and the rest of us will have to sallow the bitter pill of our resentment.
Reality can be miserable comfort especially when it is shaped by elite.
Can Bentley convince the legislature to buy his plan? Will the people vote for a lottery that pays for Medicaid expansion?
Many thought Bentley would never persuade the Republican supermajority to raise taxes to essentially pay for Medicaid and prison, but he did. But this will most likely be a one-shot-deal.
Polling numbers in favor of a State lottery are high, and perhaps voters will not care what the money is used for, as long as they don’t have to drive to the stateliness to buy lotto tickets.
Bentley will be called names, lampooned as a democrat our worse, but he has already survived the slurs, rumors and taunts. This Governor is committed to being a transformative figure in Alabama history, and although some may think his methods are madness, he is clear on where he wants to go.
With perhaps as much as a billion dollars on the line and a legacy of improving health care for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians, you can bet the farm Bentley is going to fight with whatever tools available and he most likely will win.
All that is left to do is ruminate over the deals, alliances and shenanigans that will surely take place behind the scenes as the game unfolds. More connecting the dots as we move towards the inevitable.