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3 years ago

Bentley: Medicaid expansion would cost Alabama $710 million over next 6 years

Gov. Robert Bentley addresses more than 1,200 farmers at the opening session of the Alabama Farmers Federation's 93rd annual meeting Dec. 7 at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. (Photo: Contributed)
Gov. Robert Bentley addresses more than 1,200 farmers at the opening session of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 93rd annual meeting Dec. 7 at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. (Photo: Contributed)

2014: “I cannot expand Medicaid in Alabama. We will not bring hundreds of thousands into a system that is broken and buckling.”

2015: “We are looking at that (expanding Medicaid).”

After spending the first four years of his governorship refusing to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL) told a group of lawyers in Montgomery Thursday that, though final decisions have not been made, his administration is working toward that goal.

The governor’s office has been in negotiations with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in an attempt to secure waivers from certain requirements, allowing Alabama to set up a “private option” plan similar to those in Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Until 2020 the federal government has pledged to cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion incurred by the state. Alabama’s ailing General Fund, which scrambled to cover a $250 million hole this past year with a combination of tax increases and cuts, would be responsible for coming up with the other 10 percent—an amount the governor’s office conservatively estimates to be more than $100 million a year for the next 6 years.

“If we were to accept (federal dollars to expand Medicaid) you have to realize it is going to cost the state of Alabama over the next six years $710 million in the General Fund,” Bentley admitted. “Now folks, I can’t even get them to raise a hundred million dollars. So we’ve got to look at a funding stream if we’re going to do it.”

That $100 million would need to come in the form of either taxes or cuts—a heavy lift for conservative lawmakers who just spent the past year fighting other tax increases.

Medicaid expansion would require the state to accept into the program Alabamians making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,253 a year for a family of 4.

Medicaid is currently the largest line item in Alabama’s budget, comprising 37 percent of the General Fund budget. According to the Alabama Policy Institute, the state’s Medicaid expenditures increased by 53% between 2001 and 2013, and as the state’s senior population increases, costs are expected to grow even further.

The compromise Bentley is pursuing with the Obama administration would most likely come in the form of using the Medicaid reforms Alabama passed in 2013, which allow Regional Care Organizations (RCOs) to contract with Medicaid in a system where health care providers will be given a set dollar amount to treat each patient in their care.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis told Yellowhammer the governor’s comments are simply a reflection of his work to strengthen those RCOs.

“The Governor didn’t say anything new today that he hasn’t already publicly said,” said Ardis. “The Governor’s total focus is on making the current Medicaid RCO program a success.  We have made great strides in Medicaid transformation, but the process isn’t complete.”


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14 hours ago

In new book, Alabama’s Victoria Hallman reminisces about time as Hee Haw Honey

Victoria Hallman and Diana Goodman were in attorney Bruce Phillips’ office one day reminiscing – Goodman about her time dating Elvis Presley, Hallman about her relationship with Buck Owens, both about their time as Hee Haw Honeys on the long-running television variety show “Hee Haw.”

“We sat in his office and talked it up and started telling stories,” recalls Hallman, an Alabama native and longtime fixture on the Birmingham music scene before she headed to Hollywood. “Bruce said, ‘You two sound just like this show my wife watches, “Sex and the City,” except yours is true.’ We thought about it and decided we should write a book.”

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That was 2010, and this week, “Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights: Two Hee Haw Honeys Dish Life, Love, Elvis, Buck & Good Times in the Kornfield” was published.

The book includes both women’s stories, both written by Hallman, who has done freelance writing for Flower magazine and her own blog.

“I wrote as Diana, and I wrote as Victoria,” Hallman says. “I called her every Monday night, and we did about an hour’s worth of conversation each time. The next day, I would sit down and write as Diana, using her words as much as possible.”

It’s almost two books in one, with sections labeled “Diana” and “Victoria.”

“I told Diana her life is so interesting, many of the Elvis fans will probably just skip over my part and go to her part, and my fans may skip to my parts,” Hallman says. “It was purposefully written to be like that.”

Hallman’s early years in Birmingham included stints with bands like the Ramblers, Bob Cain the Cain Breakers and the Bachelors. She was a big draw during the 1970s at the popular Bachelor’s Showboat on Morris Avenue in downtown Birmingham.

Eventually, Hallman went to Hollywood to work with Bob Hope, whom she met when she was an opening act for him at a Homecoming performance at the University of Alabama.

Hallman’s section of the new book begins with her meeting Owens, one of country’s biggest stars, while she was performing with Hope. She began performing on the road with Owens and his Buckaroos, and a relationship developed.

“There’s just a magic about creating music that’s … very intimate,” Hallman says of the romantic relationship developing. “There’s a creative process that ‘s very sexy. We were together for awhile. It wasn’t a secret.”

In 1979, Hallman joined the cast of “Hee Haw,” the TV series Owens had hosted for a decade with Roy Clark. The show featured some of country’s biggest stars performing their music, as well as comedy segments with the cast, including Minnie Pearl and young women known as the Hee Haw Honeys. Many of the comedy bits took place in the “Kornfield.”

The Hee Haw Honeys included Hallman, Goodman, Linda Thompson (who would marry Bruce Jenner), Gunilla Hutton, Barbi Benton, Misty Rowe and Lulu Roman, among others.

Hallman has fond memories of her time on “Hee Haw,” which lasted until 1990. In the book, she talks about working with guest stars such as Ed McMahon, Kathy Mattea, Naomi Judd, Ray Charles and others. In addition, she talks about the camaraderie among the Hee Haw Honeys.

“We’re still great pals,” she says. “Misty Rowe and Lulu and I and Barbie sometimes have been performing in a Hee Haw Honey reunion stage show. We stay in constant contact. We were members of a sisterhood that has stayed intact all these years.”

Although there was a downside to her long run as a Hee Haw Honey, Hallman wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“’Hee Haw Honey’ kind of eclipsed everything else, and it was hard to be taken as a serious actress or singer, but it was apparently the way my career was supposed to happen,” she says. “George Lindsey would tell you that happened with him and Goober, but he finally came to terms with it, and so have I. It’s great. I have to be glad of it.”

“Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights,” which is available on Amazon, details Hallman’s first marriage to (and divorce from) Jim Halper. She has been married to Franklin Traver for 25 years, and they live in Nashville.

Hallman still has family in Alabama and has returned to Birmingham to perform from time to time, including at the final City Stages music festival and, in 2012, when she was inducted into the Birmingham Record Collectors Hall of Fame.

“No town has ever held my heart like Birmingham,” she says. “Any success I’ve had is because of Birmingham. The more I’m in Birmingham, the happier I am.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

Alabama mom opens up about breastfeeding and her tearful first month of motherhood

I love being a mom! It is more wonderful than I could have ever dreamed, but my first month of motherhood is one that I will never forget. It’s hard to say this, but it was one of the hardest times of my life. I felt so alone, confused, and ashamed for feeling sad when I should’ve felt so happy. That’s why I’m sharing my story with you. You see, nothing about my story is really all that unique. I wasn’t alone in my struggle, but I just hadn’t heard it talked about before. So, here goes…

I felt as prepared as I could have been to have a baby. I knew it would be hard. There would be labor and delivery, followed by long sleepless nights, but I had a plan to get through those and expected it to mainly be cute squishy baby cuddles filled with sweet memories and picture-perfect moments. I really think for some people it is that way, but obviously that wasn’t my experience.

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My son, Graham, was born at Brookwood at 41 weeks after a long labor and weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces. He was taken to the NICU for low oxygen levels, where he remained for 5 days. Our NICU stay was actually a really good experience. Those amazing nurses gave me confidence in showing me how to breastfeed, bathe, and change my new baby boy. Graham was a happy baby in the NICU and because of his IV fluids, bottle feeds, and nursing sessions, he left weighing over nine pounds!

The nurses had him on a feeding schedule of every three hours. Once we got home, I started nursing him every two hours because he immediately seemed to be hungrier.

After a couple of days, my happy baby wasn’t quite as happy anymore. He started crying a lot. I started nursing him more often. After we had been home from the hospital for one week, he cried almost constantly. I knew that babies cried a lot, but was it normal for a baby to cry until he passed out from exhaustion?

Graham would nurse for only a minute or two on each side and then begin to scream again. All my efforts to help him continue to nurse longer only made him more and more frustrated. I suspected a low milk supply, so I started pumping after each feed. While I rocked screaming Graham in the bouncer with one foot, I pumped, and pumped, and pumped some more, but only to produce drops.

I did research, called nursing clinics, leagues, and hotlines. All responses were the same.

“You are a woman. You are a mom. You were made for this! Every woman can breastfeed if you try hard enough. Keep going! You are doing great!”

I took all the advice I was given. I ate certain foods to increase my supply and took recommended supplements. I started triple feeding and power pumping and despite all my efforts, I never produced more than a tablespoon of milk in a five-hour period.

Not only did Graham cry scream constantly, now I was crying too. Everyday. For the next 4 weeks.

My happy, chunky baby was not so happy and not so chunky anymore.

As I prayed that God would give me wisdom on how to take care of my child, I remembered a new mom I had met at church before Graham was born. She told me, “The first month was so much harder than I had thought it would be.” Remembering her comment, I messaged her on Facebook and in our conversation she recommended the Brookwood Breastfeeding support groups.

There are four support groups in Birmingham and I went the next day to the one closest to me. I walked into the church room where this support group met, and there were several moms sitting together nursing and talking. I met the Brookwood Lactation specialists who run the groups and they helped me get started. First, they weighed Graham to get a starting point. I was shocked to find out that at five weeks old, he weighed 8 pounds and 10 ounces. Despite nursing around the clock, he had lost 7 ounces in the last four weeks. (I have a feeling the 2 bottles of gripe water we went through were really the only thing keeping him from losing more during that time.)

After weighing him, the specialists examined our nursing routine. They were confident that his latch was good and that everything looked normal. After nursing one side they weighed him again and there was no change in weight. They let me know that wasn’t normal. I nursed the other side and we weighed the baby again. This time, the scale moved less than half an ounce.

The next few minutes are moments I will never forget. The head of the lactation team sat me down and gave me a sweet hug and said, “Honey, you are doing a great job, because your intuition was correct. This isn’t enough to sustain life for your son. We don’t tell people this often, but you need to supplement with formula. You are not a failure. It isn’t true what they say. Not every woman can breastfeed. I know that’s not fair, but it is true. You have been brave.”

I finally had answers for my child, and I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Although my baby was screaming through the store from hunger, I was embarrassed for a minute to be buying formula. I felt like a failure and that everyone was looking at me and thinking I was giving up right there in Target.

I took one look at my precious, helpless baby and pushed aside all my foolishness to make the best purchase I had ever made. I sat down and immediately fed my crying baby. And just like that, he stopped crying, he drank his bottle, and then he looked up at me and smiled for the first time. That moment melted my heart forever. The beautiful moment continued when he fell asleep in my arms, full, and fully content.

Everything changed! I was feeding my baby. Not the way I had planned or hoped, but he was fed and he was happy and so was I. And there was sleep! Sleep for everyone!

Since that time I’ve shared my experiences with other moms, and there have been many well-meaning people tell me all the things I should have done differently or how I should have pushed through longer. Maybe. I just let it all roll off my back because I have a happy, healthy, and smart little three-year-old boy. I truly feel that his life was saved by that sweet lactation nurse and the formula that was worth its weight in gold to me. I would gladly let my pride die over and over so my child could live. With each child I have I will attempt to nurse again, but in the end, fed is best for us.

If you are a struggling new mom reading this blog post, you are not alone! You are a good mommy. You were made for this, but caring for your baby may look just a little different than you had planned. Be flexible. Be patient. Forgive yourself when you need to, and move on.

A wise mom once told me, “Don’t measure your success as a mother by your first month of motherhood.”

Man, was she right!

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Rebekah McKee is a stay-at-home mother in Calera and a contributing writer at Birmingham Moms Blog

16 hours ago

VIDEO: Trump caves to media pressure — ‘Moderate’ Doug Jones — Internet sales tax could mean more Alabama taxes, and more on Guerrilla Politics!

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including:

— Why did President Donald Trump cave on immigration and what do Democrats really want?

— How can Doug Jones keep his “moderate” label while co-sponsoring liberal bills on immigration?

— Will Alabama politicians make a play for Internet sales tax dollars?

Dr. Deidra Willis joins Jackson and Burke to discuss her runoff for State Senate, Internet sales taxes and gambling.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at folks who want open borders but don’t have the guts to say so.

Posted by Dale Jackson on Sunday, June 24, 2018

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18 hours ago

U.S. median age hits all-time high of 38; record 86,248 are 100 or older

The median age of the U.S. population hit an all-time high of 38.0 in 2017, according to data released by the Census Bureau on Thursday.

The number of people in the United States who were 100 years old or older also hit a record in 2017, according to the Census Bureau data, climbing to 86,248.

The Census Bureau each year publishes estimates of the median age and year-by-year ages of the U.S. population as of July 1 of the previous year.

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“The nation as a whole experienced a median age increase from 37.2 years to 38.0 years during the period from 2010 to 2017,” the Census Bureau said in a press release.

In each of the last five years on record, the median age in the United States ticked up by one-tenth of a year in each year. As of July 1, 2012, it was 37.5. In 2013, it was 37.6. In 2014, it was 37.7. In 2015, it was 37.8. In 2016, it was 37.9. Then, in 2017, it was 38.0.

However, historically, the median age has not invariably risen from year to year in the United States.

In the period from 1950 to 1970, the median age dropped from 30.2 to 28.1, according to the Census Bureau.

In the first half of the 20th Century, however, the median age had been on the rise. In 1900, it was 22.9. By 1940, it had risen to 29.

The number of people 100 years or older in the United States has risen significantly in the last eight years, according to the estimates published by the Census. As of July 1, 2010, it was 54,413. By 2015, it had risen to 76,941. Then, in 2017, it hit 86,248.

The 86,248 people in the United States as of July 1, 2017, who were 100 years old or older were not evenly divided by sex, according to the Census Bureau. Of the 86,248 centenarians, 68,354 were women and only 17,894 were men.

Similarly, the median age for women in the United States in 2017 was 39.4. For men, it was 36.8.

In 2002, the Census Bureau published a report on “Demographic Trends in the 20th Century” in the United States.

“At the beginning of the century, half of the U.S. population was less than 22.9 years old,” said the report. “At the century’s end, half of the population was more than 35.3 years old, the country’s highest median age ever.”

The report noted that the aging of the Baby Boom generation would continue to impact both the “age and sex structure of the United States” for several decades into this century.

“In 1900, the U.S. population had an age and sex composition similar to many of today’s developing countries,” said the report. “That is, the country was characterized by its ‘youngness.’ The median age (half of the population younger and half older) was about 23 years. Although the U.S. population aged during the century, with a median age of about 35 years in 2000, the extended length of the baby-boom period (1946 to 1964), plus the continued infusion of migrants kept the country’s age structure younger than that of most developed countries of the world.

“Although the population in each 5-year age group increased numerically, younger age groups fell as a proportion of the total population, while the proportion in older age groups rose,” said the Census report.

“Apart from these general trends, changes in age and sex structure varied from one decade to the next,” said the report. “Past U.S. fertility trends exerted the strongest influence on age composition. Low fertility from the late 1920s through the early 1940s, the post-World War II baby boom, and a subsequent return to low fertility altered the composition of the U.S. population by age. The effect of the baby boom on the age and sex structure of the United States will extend several decades into the 21st century as the baby boomers age through the life cycle.”

(Courtesy of CNSNews.com)

TRAGEDY: Pause and pray for Alabama AG Steve Marshall — wife confirmed dead

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall died Sunday morning, following “a long struggle with mental illness,” according to a statement from Marshall’s office.

When untimely death strikes, our natural tendency is to immediately want to know what happened and be tempted to listen to and spread gossip.

But Steve Marshall and his family don’t deserve gossip right now. They deserve grace, and space, and that’s what Alabamians should give our attorney general.

Today, the how and why shouldn’t matter, at least not right now.

What matters is that a husband, a father, a man – a good and decent man – is devastated beyond comprehension. Everything we say and do from this point forward should be about helping Steve and his family, not adding to their grief by posting mean social media comments or spreading unconfirmed rumors.

Troy King, his opponent in the GOP primary runoff,  said in a Facebook post that he is pausing his campaign and stopping his advertisements, as he should.

Take a moment today to pause and pray for Steve Marshall and his family.

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