Last week at a town hall listening session in Huntsville, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) explained to those in attendance that the Republican leadership in the legislature got his support on the Rebuild Alabama Act, which will raise state fuel taxes 10 cents per gallon by 2021, because Republicans pledged to work with Democrats on some of the issues Daniels had prioritized.
Among those issues was Medicaid expansion, which has fueled speculation a deal was made by Republicans with Democrats. In exchange for their support on the Rebuild Alabama Act, Democrats would get support from Republicans on the expansion of the Medicaid rolls, according to this speculation.
However, in an interview on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Friday, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) said that was not the case.
“Gosh, no I don’t know of any deal,” McCutcheon said when asked by WVNN’s Dale Jackson.
Later, Jackson followed up by asking about the possibility of Medicaid expansion despite the speaker’s denial of any “deal” with Democrats.
“I don’t think so,” McCutcheon replied. “Everybody seems to be using Medicaid expansion as the theme of a subject that we need to address, and that is rural hospitals and health care. Now, Medicaid expansion comes into that discussion. I made a commitment to Anthony [Daniels]. But again, I’ve made this commitment from the very beginning that we need to be talking about our health care system. If you want to call it Medicaid expansion, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about health care.”
During his town hall last week, Daniels explained that efforts to expand Medicaid might come with a different label other than “Medicaid expansion.”
“Right now, I’ve been meeting with a number of the stakeholders, including the hospital association and other groups with coming up with plans to do some form of expansion,” Daniels said last Monday. “And other states, like Georgia, in their legislature – it’s not called ‘Medicaid expansion.’ It’s called ‘Access to Rural Sustainability Act,’ or whatever it is. I think sometimes we get caught up in the actual name when the contents can be the same under a different name. I’m more interested in the content. And so, what we’re looking at is a way to expand access to health care, and to save our rural hospitals and hospitals in general. And you know, it may not be called what you want it to be called, but we know what it is. And so, we’re working hard in a bipartisan way on ways to prevent further closures of hospitals in rural areas.”
As far as any kind of dealmaking, McCutcheon acknowledged there were discussions with the minority caucus about the issue.
“From my standpoint, and I think it’s important that we understand this, is that when it comes to the minority caucus, as speaker, I want to know what their issues are,” the House speaker said to WVNN. “What are their concerns? So, if I sit down at the table and I talk to the minority caucus, and I ask them, ‘Tell me what your concerns are?’ And they tell me Medicaid expansion is one of their concerns, and in the process, they say, ‘What do you want to get done, Mr. Speaker?’ I said, ‘Well, we’re here for the infrastructure.’ Now, are we making a deal? No, we’re talking about issues that concern us.”
Daniels insisted he had received assurances from the governor and House leadership about a potential future “conversation.” He referred to the string of rural hospital closures around the state and explained that many of those were in House districts held by Republicans, which has made some GOP legislators more open to the issue than in previous years.
“They’re interested in having a conversation about it now, and we’ve put together some concepts,” he added. “We’ve been working on it the last couple of weeks. We are optimistic about the governor and leadership in the House. We just have to make sure the Senate is dancing to the same tune of music, and that’s where I think you’ll have the biggest problem, if there’s a problem.”
The Rebuild Alabama Act was passed with all but two of the 28 Democrats supporting it in the House and all but one of the 8 Democrats in the Senate.
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.