By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, August 1, 2016, State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) joined the growing number of conservative Republicans who are tentatively backing a lottery proposal.
Rep. Butler said to constituents on social media, “Governor Bentley has called the Alabama legislature into a special session beginning August 15th to consider a lottery. I am already on record to vote to allow the people of our state to decide this matter by a vote of the people. The proceeds need to go to the general fund as that’s where the problems exist. Medicaid is basically cannibalizing every other state agency. We do need more revenue but we must bring that runway agency under control. What say you?
Rep. Butler conducted a poll on Facebook and the results were overwhelmingly pro-lottery: “Anyone that doubted what I stated about the people wanting to vote on a state lottery please check my post from two hours ago. It’s the one with 400 comments in 2 hours. As I have stated many times I’m not a gambling guy but as a representative of the people I must listen to my district.”
The problem in the state general fund is spiraling out of control Medicaid costs.
Rep. Butler said, “I would prefer to combine the budgets or cap Medicaid spending but you and I both know neither is possible at the moment. There is nowhere to fund the out of control Medicaid request. It’s has more than doubled in a short time and they are still demanding more.”
While Rep. Butler supports letting the people vote on whether or not to have a State-run lottery, he is not for letting the people vote on where that money should go and admits most of his constituents believe the money should go to education, however Butler said, “The Ed budget grows each year so if passed I feel certain most will go where the problem is and that’s the general fund. Really we need only one budget and we wouldn’t have a problem. It would require a constitutional amendment to combine the budgets and at the moment I don’t think it would pass.”
Republican Party Chairman Terry M. Lathan replied, “Combining budgets would be great. We are one of the few states that have two. The education budget has growth, general budget ties your hands and makes us all hostage.”
Meanwhile Alabama Medicaid has cut the amount of money that it pays doctors to treat Medicaid patients as of Monday.
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R from Arley) said on social media, “Medicaid reduction in payments begin for physicians. Physician reimbursement rate drops from $101.00 for a 25 minute visit to $67.00 for a 25 minute visit. Converted to an hourly rate, the rate drops from $240 per hour to $160.80. Lawyers who represent indigents are paid $70.00 an hour in comparison.”
The Federal government raised the compensation rates for doctors who take Medicaid as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (better known as Obamacare). Those first two years of the bump were paid for by the federal government. That expired, but the State legislature was able to maintain those elevated rates by raising cigarette, prescription drug, and nursing home bed taxes and by transferring $82 million in use taxes from the education trust fund (ETF) to the state general fund (SFG) in a Special Session in 2015.
That was not good enough for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R). Even though the legislature fully funded Alabama Medicaid at 2016 levels in the 2017 fiscal year budget, Gov. Bentley insists that he needs another $85 million a year to implement the state’s ambitious Medicaid reform plan and pull down federal dollars to do so. The lottery would be one way to get that money, though few believe that money would be available for the 2017 fiscal year which begin on October 1.
The Special Session to focus on the Medicaid question begins on August 15.