MONTGOMERY – This week the Alabama Legislature sent a clear message to Governor Robert Bentley by overturning his veto of the state budget.
The House and Senate both voted to override the Governor’s veto on the General Fund budget on Tuesday. The Senate voted 22-11 and the House concurred 71-24.
Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), House budget chairman, said the approved budget was “adequate” for most state agencies, but Governor Bentley disagreed. He had asked the Legislature for a $100 million increase in appropriations for Medicaid, which would have brought their budget to $785 million. The Legislature’s budget approved $700 million for Medicaid – $85 million short of what the Governor asked.
Governor Bentley had proposed moving $181 million from education to the General Fund budget to help pay for Medicaid and other agencies, but the Legislature rejected that proposal.
Overall, the General Fund budget will spend $1.85 billion this upcoming fiscal year, which is an increase of 5 percent from this year.
Clouse did say that the House and Senate budget committees would hold joint meetings next week to discuss Medicaid and its rising costs.
“We want to give everybody on the committees and any other members of the Legislature a chance to zero in on Medicaid,” Clouse explained.
On Wednesday, Governor Bentley said that the Alabama Medicaid Agency would look at ways to cut costs and live within this new budget before he considers calling a special session over the state budget.
“If we have to live within our means, then we have to make some very tough decisions,” Bentley said.
The Governor and Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar came up with a number of programs that could be cut or downsized in order to stay within their budget. Eliminating prescription drug coverage for adults could potentially save $50 to $60 million alone.
Other programs being considered (and their potential savings) include:
• Eliminate eyeglasses for adults: $300,000
• Eliminate outpatient dialysis: $3.7 million
• Eliminate prosthetics and orthotics; $500,000
• Eliminate Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE): $2 million
• Eliminate Health Home and Physician case management fee: $16.6 million
• Eliminate primary care bump (pays doctors at Medicare levels): $14.7 million
In 2014, 1.2 million residents of Alabama – almost 25% of the state’s population – were eligible for Medicaid.