Governor, it’s time to uphold your oath

Published 9:24 pm Monday, October 28, 2013

In the past few months, Gov. Robert Bentley has drawn sharp criticism for his refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Bentley, a dermatologist, says he will not expand Medicaid, despite numerous studies and reports citing job creation, better patient care and reduced costs to the state.

Instead, Bentley has begun pushing several reform options to lower the cost of Alabama’s $615 million Medicaid budget, which provides care for approximately 900,000 individuals.

His first reform was to switch from a fee-for-service model to a system of locally-run managed care organizations.

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Now, his personally-appointed Medicaid Commission is meeting with a Walmart representative to make the big-box retailer the single distributor of Medicaid prescriptions in the State of Alabama.

Let me get this straight: the governor is going to funnel millions in Medicaid prescription dollars directly into big business pockets? Could he undermine the integrity of small businesses more directly?

According to the Walmart representative making the pitch, 78 percent of all Medicaid patients live within 10 miles of a Walmart. What about the 22 percent of patients — an estimated 108,000 people — who don’t live within 10 miles of a Walmart? What about patients who lack the transportation to get to a Walmart pharmacy, so they have a delivery arrangement with a local pharmacist? What about our local pharmacists?

Walmart’s corporate policy is to pay employees poverty-level wages for less than 30 hours a week to avoid offering health insurance benefits and keep corporate profits high. Then, they turn around and encourage their employees to take advantage of public safety nets like Medicaid. Under this plan, those same Walmart employees would then turn to Walmart to get their prescriptions covered by the state. Not only is the corporation taking advantage of social programs, they would now be able to profit from them. Under this plan, Walmart wins and the people lose.

Governor Bentley says he won’t expand Medicaid as long as it’s broken. The solution won’t be found by breaking the system more. Allowing big businesses to profit while small businesses suffer is not the key. Cutting costs across the backs of hard working men and women is not the key. Breaking a broken system to prove a point to the President is not the key.

Governor, you took an oath first as a doctor to care for the sick and to “keep them from harm and injustice.” You then took an oath as Governor to “faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of your office.”

It’s time to uphold those promises to yourself and to the people.