Alabama Lottery Stopgap Medicaid Plan Dies in Failure for Governor Bentley

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By Glynn Wilson –

The fools y’all elected to represent us in Montgomery have gone back home now on a paid vacation for a holiday they don’t even believe in, Labor Day.

The fool of a governor y’all elected to represent us in the state capital is making excuses like the bad kid on the playground who threw the rock through the window and broke the glass.

The press y’all have been tolerant of for decades just gets to make fun of you and everybody else without taking any responsibility for the mess we’re in or the people who are dying every day.

And y’all just sit there and put up with it. No wonder this state is so sorry and backward.

In case you have not heard already, Governor Robert Bentley’s not so brilliant plan to call the Legislature back into special session in August to save the Medicaid health care program and shore up the budget with the proceeds of a state lottery failed miserably and dramatically, but predictably.

“The lottery bill for the 2016 special session is dead,” declared Springville Republican Senator Jim McClendon, just after the vote. “The people of Alabama have been denied the right to vote on a lottery. The people of Alabama made it clear that’s what they would like the opportunity to do. After the bill passed out of the House with a favorable vote, the Senate ultimately killed that opportunity.”

The Legislature adjourned Friday afternoon and vowed to come back the day after Labor Day, September 6, to continue debating an alternative plan to find $85 million for Medicaid from the BP oil disaster lawsuit settlement money. There’s no guarantee anything will come out of it with three legislative days left in the session. Lawmakers are divided between the north and south, between those on the Gulf Coast where the BP disaster had an impact, and greedy lawmakers from North Alabama around Decatur who somehow think they deserve the BP money to fix their own roads.

The deficit in Medicaid money went into effect on the first of August and has already resulted in reduced payments to doctors, caused layoffs at hospitals and threatens the very existence of rural hospitals and even whether many pediatricians will be able to remain in practice. As our previous reporting — and only our reporting — has shown, at least 1,200 people a year are already dying for lack of access to health care only provided by Medicaid.

Legislators could still tap into the $1 billion the state got from BP for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster lawsuit settlement. The working plan was to use about $448 million to pay off existing debt and free up $70 million for the Medicaid health care program. Bentley has said he has the remaining $15 million in discretionary money he could chip in to make the program whole, at least for this year. He wanted proceeds from the lottery to make up the difference in future years, but that is now a dead deal.

Legislators from Mobile and Baldwin Counties wanted $191 million to support road projects in the two counties where the BP disaster had a direct impact. But even that deal appears to be at risk now.

“If you talk to those who represent the Gulf Coast, they feel all the money should go to the Gulf Coast,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican from Anniston, said Friday in the wake of the failed lottery compromise. “The bill that came out of committee had $191 million for the coast. Right now, that’s in jeopardy.”

The Senate had actually gotten together and passed one version of the lottery bill last week, and the House passed another version on Thursday, but when it went to the Senate for a conference committee vote, it failed by a vote of 24-7.

After it became clear that the lottery bill was dead, Bentley emerged from the Capitol and scapegoated legislators, blaming them for killing people and denying benefits to the one million Alabamians who depend on Medicaid.

“I can’t accept that as a doctor and I can’t accept it as the governor of this state,” Bentley said. “Because one of the things we have to do as a government is this: There are people in this state who cannot take care of themselves. And there are people who depend on government and the government is us.”

But everyone should know by now that it was the governor who refused to accept $1 billion a year from the federal government to fully fund Medicaid in 2012, because of his fear that the tea party would run an even more conservative Christian Republican against him and deny him a second term. The blood of the 1,200 or so people who are dying every year in Alabama because they are not covered by health care is blood on his hands, but he doesn’t want you the people to know that.

He called the special session to try to get a lottery amendment on the November 8 general election ballot so he could blame it on the people when the lottery vote failed. The people had a chance to pass a lottery for education back in 1999, but they voted overwhelmingly against it due to pressure from organized religion groups funded in part by out of state casino interests.

But when Bentley’s lottery plan went down in a flaming train wreck, he blamed it on the legislative branch of government and denied responsibility for his own failure.

The details of how it failed are out there on the web for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to see: Alleged conflicts between various moneyed interests over language of what constitutes a lottery, between organized religion and competing gambling groups.

Some legislators accused the governor of a conspiracy, making a behind the scenes deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who already operate casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka. But of course the governor denied it.

Some legislators tried to get language in the bill to allow dog tracks in the state to compete with the Native American casinos. Legislators around Tuscaloosa advocated for Green Track. Others were interested in allowing Milton McGregor to reopen Victoryland in Macon County and to bring back slot machines to the Birmingham Race Course.

Last minute efforts to pass a lottery bill were also undermined by the absence of two pro-lottery Republicans from North Alabama. Bill Holtzclaw of Madison and Paul Sanford of Huntsville appeared to be AWOL when the final vote was taken. Holtzclaw, a Marine Corps veteran, claimed on Twitter he was away in Washington, D.C. to honor a former commander. No one could seem to find or reach Sanford.

The only person in town who seemed clear on what happened was Rainbow City Republican Senator Phil Williams of St. Clair County.

“Make no mistake,” Williams said. “The casino interests are what killed that lottery.”

Whatever. We figure it was doomed from the start and Bentley knew it. How much more money will these bozos waste on smoke screen special sessions before the people get so fed up they show up en masse and just take over and kick them out?

When this happens in a third world country, somebody rises up and takes over in a coup d’etat. Alabama is sort of like a third world country.

Of course the coup d’etat already happened in 2010, when the tea party Republicans took over the Legislature and for the first time since Reconstruction and came to control all three branches of the state government. They are the ones with all the guns, and apparently there are happy Medicaid is failing and people are dying. They think the only people who get Medicaid are black or Mexican, and they are not interested in the statistics that show a majority of those poor, old and sick children are in fact white.

They do not like government or expect or want it to work. So now they get exactly what they deserve. Nothing.

Now maybe with his back against the wall, Governor Bentley will do the right thing and expand Medicaid like governors in Louisiana and Indiana. Hey, even Donald Trump’s running mate took the federal money in Indiana and covered his people.

Republicans hate Obamacare. But Mike Pence expanded it in Indiana

Open Letter to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley – Please Fully Fund Medicaid

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “Alabama Lottery Stopgap Medicaid Plan Dies in Failure for Governor Bentley

  1. William G. Barnes
    August 28, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    You are precisely on point Glynn. Every word is to the point and correct. The problem is the money interests that got all the Republicans in Montgomery elected to office. The solution to the money problem is the voters are going to have to seek out and vote for candidates for office that have no money and run solely on a ticket that is not supported by special interests, or special interests money. Our country’s election rules must be changed to require that a candidate must fully disclose the precise sources of campaign contributions in public venues without costs to the candidates. The American political process is not a game for the wealthy and privileged class in America.

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