The State of Alabama is facing a grave dilemma: will it cut money from its Medicaid program in order to fund education, or will the state’s educational wellbeing suffer in order to keep Medicaid alive?
Or will Alabama’s leaders find some way out of this problem without crippling one program or the other?
Baptist Health CEO W. Russell Tyner says that letting Medicaid go underfunded by $200 million will be a disaster that “fills emergency rooms, pushes people into the least appropriate venues.” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley wants to get that $200 million from the Education Trust Fund meant to buffer public education cuts. Rep. Jay Love argues that “you don’t pay one bill by skipping the obligation of another.”
But when you look at the big picture, you can easily see the direct impact of letting Medicaid go underfunded. Hospitals and the professionals working in them will be forced to cut a significant number of aid programs just to stay afloat. Some hospitals might even close down as health workers migrate to other states that can better finance their services.
The money to be taken from Education Trust Fund, on the other hand, was designed for a ‘rainy day’ should federal funding for education be cut off for one reason or another. The risk of that rainy day coming sometime soon is a very real one, so taking money from that fund is a high-risk move – even if the state will repay that money through tax credits.
The situation for Medicaid, though, is a dire one – at least according to Sen. Dick Brewbaker, saying that 652 people will be taken off renal dialysis in the current $400 million Medicaid budget. And that does not include others who depend on Medicaid for specialized care.
The decision will not be an easy one – at least not if the citizens of Alabama will be willing to pay more taxes to keep both education and Medicaid afloat.