Melton calls Medicaid cuts ‘unacceptable’

Published 8:14 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Alabama legislators got back to work Monday for a special called session by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The session was called to find a solution to the state’s General Fund budget crisis, which is facing millions of dollars in cuts if lawmakers can’t think of ways to bring in more revenue.

The House of Representatives debated a budget Wednesday that would cut Medicaid by $156 million.

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“That is just unacceptable for them to try to balance the budget off the backs of the most formidable people in our state,” said Rep. Darrio Melton. “We do not need to touch Medicaid healthcare services because that is the backbone of many of our communities.”

Melton called the proposal appalling and said expanding Medicaid was something the state desperately needs to do.

“Expanding Medicaid is necessary. There are billions of dollars that the Federal government sends into our state that we are literally turning down,” Melton said. “It is money that we do not have to pay back. It is money that we will get in turn for expanding Medicaid for those individuals who are not covered by the traditional Medicaid program.”

Melton said the cuts would also have a major economic impact.

“Not only will we have a health impact, but we’ll also have an economic impact that could be drastic if they continue to try to cut and don’t fulfill the obligations that we need to do for the people here in Alabama,” Melton said.

“The impact of that is for every dollar that we spend on Medicaid in the state, the Federal government matches us by almost $3, so that $156 million could be up to $600 million we’re talking about losing in total funding for our Medicaid program.”

It was no secret that Democrats would dislike the proposal, but both sides continue to play the blame game, pointing fingers awry.

“One thing people should understand is that the Republicans have a supermajority. They can do whatever they want to do in regards to passing a budget,” Melton said. “They have failed to lead. Leadership is what is needed when a crisis is going on, and right now they are refusing to lead.”

Melton said he did not foresee a solution coming from the special called session unless both sides are willing to give and take.

“We’re hoping that somewhere down the road there will be some kind of consensus, but I think that goes from the Governor’s office to the legislature,” Melton said. “The Governor is asking the legislature to do one thing, but the Governor has to be willing to give too in regards to the concerns of the legislators.”

Melton said if this problem is going to be fixed, the state will need to expand Medicaid, close corporate tax loopholes and eventually allow citizens to vote on a lottery.