6 years ago

Obama Admin. rooting for BentleyCare Medicaid expansion, touts similar Pennsylvania plan

BentleyCare

WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials are celebrating New Years early by touting a spike in government healthcare enrollment, and are rooting hard for more states, including Alabama, to expand their Medicaid programs under ObamaCare in early 2015.

“As of October 2014, approximately 9.7 million additional Americans were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP – a 17 percent increase over the average monthly enrollment for July through September 2013,” said Cindy Mann, Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Director of the Centers for Medicaid and CHIP Services. “(S)tates can expand their Medicaid programs to cover more people at any time. And, even more Americans could access affordable coverage if all states take the Medicaid expansion option.”

As of today, 26 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded their Medicaid programs under ObamaCare.

“Coverage for newly eligible adult beneficiaries is fully federally paid for under the Affordable Care Act through 2016, and never less than 90 percent for the years following,” said Mann. “Pennsylvania will become the 27th state when coverage starts on January 1, 2015.”

The Obama Administration is particularly excited about the Pennsylvania expansion because it is being spearheaded by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

Similar to Pennsylvania and Arkansas, which is also led by a Republican governor, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has said he’d like to be able to funnel federal tax dollars through the state government and into private insurers. They would then use those taxpayer dollars to cover uninsured individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the same ultimate outcome as Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare. The difference is that by receiving a “waiver” from the Obama administration, Republican governors have been able to participate in ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion while selling to their conservative constituents as something completely different. In Pennsylvania they call it the “Healthy PA” plan. In Arkansas it’s commonly referred to as the “private option.”

Mann said the Administration is optimistic that Alabama and other Republican-controlled states will follow in the footsteps of Pennsylvania in the near future. She also trumpeted the fact that government healthcare enrollment has increased much faster in states that have expanded Medicaid.

“Several other states have recently indicated their plan to pursue expansion in 2015,” she said. “This is encouraging because Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in states with expanded Medicaid programs rose by over 24 percent since before the initial open enrollment in Marketplace began, in comparison to nearly 7 percent in states that have not expanded Medicaid.”

But while the Obama Administration is optimistically waiting for Gov. Bentley to expand Medicaid, conservative groups in Alabama have already begun preemptively pushing for him to stick to his campaign promise to not take the expansion.

Two dozen grassroots conservative leaders from across Alabama wrote a letter to the governor last week.

“You campaigned specifically on not expanding Medicaid, and according to recent media reports from multiple outlets, you are now open to expanding it,” they wrote. “Therefore, we are writing to encourage you, if not demand of you, that you immediately put these rumors to rest and state for the record once and for all that Medicaid expansion will not happen under your watch now or ever.”

Katherine Robertson of the Alabama Policy Institute, the state’s leading conservative think tank, also penned an op-ed warning that Alabamians should not be fooled by a “backdoor approach to Medicaid expansion.”

“Republican Governors and legislators who have repeatedly laid out principled cases against Medicaid expansion should not be permitted to repackage expansion under new nomenclature,” Robertson concluded. “We should not be fooled. These state-sponsored alternatives are merely a backdoor approach to Medicaid expansion as introduced in the Affordable Care Act. Such plans are costly, unsustainable, inflexible, and most of all, not free.”

But while Gov. Bentley has — since being re-elected — expressed his desire to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, he has maintained that whatever plan he proposes will not violate his promise to not expand Medicaid.

“I’ve said that I’m not going to expand Medicaid, and I’m not,” Bentley said on the Matt Murphy Show. “What I was talking about is if the federal government would give me block grants — that means gives us the money with no strings attached, basically — so that we could help — help — those in the 100 to 138 percent poverty level that are already working or in workforce training.”

The core problem Republican governors have had with expanding Medicaid in any form is that the Obama administration has to sign off on any proposal. For instance, Bentley has often mentioned some form of work or workforce training requirement for new individuals receiving insurance under his plan, but similar requirements in Pennsylvania were dropped when the Obama Administration balked.

“The chances are that the federal government’s not going to do that,” Bentley said. “But if the federal government would give me the block grant money and let me design it through Blue Cross or United Health or someone like that, (we could) let them design a program to help people temporarily as they try to better themselves with workforce training and those in the lower socioeconomic group, but they have to be working.”


9 mins ago

Documentary shows Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as model of excellence for rest of nation

A documentary film being released digitally this week focuses heavily on the State of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program as an example of sterling quality that other states should emulate.

The film, titled “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America” lasts about one hour, and over half of the running time is devoted to extolling the virtues of Alabama’s Pre-K program.

The film was funded by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation and produced in partnership with FireStarter Interactive. It is designed to lay out the positive effects of investing in early childhood education.

“Alabama is one of the shining stars, not only in the southeast, but in the country,” says Joe Squires, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) around the midpoint of the movie.

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Starting at Zero features footage of Governor Kay Ivey and extended testimonials from former Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross, former Business Council of Alabama Chairman Jeff Coleman and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

Many other Alabamians affiliated with the First Class Pre-K program are also featured, including students, parents, teachers, and employees of the Department of Early Childhood Education.

Multiple individuals featured spoke to how investing in early childhood education is not just the morally right thing to do, but is also the best thing to help the economy.

“Children who have the benefit of quality pre-k education are better prepared for a future education,” remarks Canfield in the movie, adding that good pre-k puts children on a path to be capable members of Alabama’s workforce which is currently on track for a shortage of qualified workers.

First Class Pre-K has long been one of the Yellowhammer State’s most lauded policy accomplishments.

(Starting at Zero/Screenshot/Contributed)

“Alabama is a model for what other states can emulate,” Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) says near the end of the documentary.

Bullock details in the picture how he invited then-Secretary Ross to Montana to inform the key policymakers in his state how Alabama had built such an enviable program.

“Our children are our future, and what we do as a state today will determine who we are as a state tomorrow,” says Ivey in the documentary.

More information on the movie, including how to view it, can be found on the film’s website.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

23 mins ago

Jack’s offering free coffee to teachers August 17–21 — ‘A small way we hope to say thank you’

Jack’s Family Restaurants is celebrating teachers as they kick off the 2020 school year by offering free coffee at all of its locations from August 17–21.

According to a release, all teachers can receive their free coffee from Jack’s, in the drive-thru or in the restaurant, Monday through Friday until 9:00 a.m. with a valid school ID.

No purchase is necessary to redeem the offer, and teachers can choose between a hot or iced regular-sized coffee, limit one per guest.

“Being a good neighbor and supporting the communities we serve is part of the Jack’s DNA,” stated Jack’s CEO Todd Bartmess.

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“Offering free coffee to our hardworking teachers as they kick off an unusual school year is a small way we hope to say ‘thank you’ for everything they do,” he added.

Founded in 1960 in Homewood, Alabama, Jack’s Family Restaurants started as Jack’s Hamburgers in a walk-up hamburger stand that served burgers, fries, sodas and shakes.

The chain over the past 60 years has grown to almost 200 locations in four states across the South.

This is merely the latest in a long line of examples of Jack’s continuing to support its local communities as the chain grows.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

44 mins ago

Michael Jordan speaks to Univ. of Alabama football team — ‘Winning has a price’

Basketball legend Michael Jordan on Tuesday spoke via video conference to the University of Alabama football team.

The program, led by head coach Nick Saban, routinely has some of the most successful, well-known athletes and leaders from across the nation address the team each summer in preparation for the fall season.

Previous examples reported by Yellowhammer News include the late Kobe Bryant, as well as speakers from the business and political sectors such as world-famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Alabama Athletics shared a one-minute video clip from Jordan’s virtual visit. Players seen in the video were socially distanced and wearing masks at the team facility.

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“This guy — I have the most respect for, of anybody, as a competitor. This guy is a great competitor,” Saban said introducing Jordan to the team.

The Crimson Tide coach also praised Jordan in recent months during the premier of the popular 10-part documentary “The Last Dance.”

Jordan spoke to the team on Tuesday about what it takes to be a champion.

“Winning has a price,” the six-time NBA champion said. “You have to put forth the effort every single day.”

“Coaching can only give you the motivation — they can give you plays and they can give you all that — but at the end of the day, you’ve got to have self-determination. You have to want to be the best,” Jordan advised.

He added, “If you’re all on the same page and everybody wants to win, that’s the whole process. If you guys are sitting there putting on that Alabama uniform, your attitude is about winning. Winning is a part of me. I will do anything to win. Your energy should be towards winning.”

Watch:

Alabama Football also shared this famous quote from Jordan in a tweet: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

The program, led by its players with support from the staff and administration, are currently trying to save the 2020 fall college football season.

RELATED: Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Alabama’s small business community needs Congress’ support

Affordable health care has long been a cause of concern for small business across our country with the cost of coverage has consistently ranked at the top of small business owners’ concerns. And now, amid a global health crisis, health coverage is more important than ever. As someone with years of experience working in the healthcare industry and alongside businesses, I have seen firsthand how the small business community faces unique challenges when it comes to employer-sponsored benefits.

There is no doubt that each employer wants to give employees the best benefits possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes small businesses competitive, attracting a more skilled workforce and helping to keep employees healthy. However, the large majority of small business owners run on extremely small margins, and as health care costs continue to rise, it is even more difficult to provide employees with quality health care coverage.

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Alabama is known for our friendly small business community, inviting many small employers to plant their roots in the Yellowhammer State. This is why we’re proud to have over 380,000 small businesses that employ over 765,000 of our state’s residents. Small businesses are, and always have been, the backbone of our economy. Alabama laws historically promote competition and small business growth but despite this, we still need our federal lawmakers to support us, especially at a time when businesses are struggling.

Today, with the pandemic continuing to spread across our state, small business owners are struggling to stay in business, and they are bracing for the full financial impacts of COVID-19. It is a devastating situation to be in and our small business community cannot survive on its own.

Fortunately, we have very dedicated small business champions in Washington, D.C. who have been working tirelessly to ensure any federal COVID-19 relief includes small businesses.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell supported bipartisan legislation that in 2019 repealed an Obamacare tax known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This erroneous tax increased the price of health insurance for small business owners. Now we need them to further continue that work and work to implement policies that will continue to lower the cost of health care for small business owners, their employees, and their families, especially at a time when having health care is so crucial. A healthy workforce that is ready, and able, to get back to work is vital to our state, and country’s economic recovery.

Small business owners want to continue to provide health care for their employees, but they need Congress’ help to do so. I ask that our elected officials continue to come together to support Alabama’s small business community, especially when it comes to lowering health care costs and making health care more affordable — both as we continue to overcome COVID-19 and long beyond.

Curtis Cannon is a Managing Partner at Axis Recovery and has over 15 years of experience working with health insurance companies, brokers and consulting firms.

2 hours ago

Doug Jones: Kamala Harris ‘exactly what we need’

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Wednesday sent out a fundraising email to his supporters celebrating that his “friend” U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has been selected as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Harris joins former Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. Jones is a longtime ally of Biden and was one of the first major elected officials in the country to endorse his presidential bid this cycle. It was also announced on Tuesday shortly before Harris was named as the VP nominee that Jones will be a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention next week.

Reacting to Harris’ selection on Wednesday, Jones wrote, “First of all, I’m proud of my friend and colleague. Her tenacity and dedication are exactly what we need to take on so many of the challenges we face, from helping save lives and livelihoods during this pandemic to finally ending systemic racism.”

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Harris has previously announced support for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, decriminalizing illegal immigration, gun confiscation and other policy proposals championed by the far-left. She even once compared ICE agents to the Ku Klux Klan.

“This election is going to come down to the contrast between unity and division, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know how to bring people together. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to what we saw in 2017. Everything we’re seeing shows that not only do we have to make sure everyone hears about our message of unity, but we also have to energize traditionally underrepresented communities like Black and Latinx voters,” Alabama’s junior senator added in his email. “We sure did that in 2017 – I know the power and energy of Black women and the difference their hard work made in my race.”

“Now, we can do it again, and we’ll make history by electing our first Black and South Asian woman Vice President. I’m so proud that person will be my friend and colleague,” he concluded, with the email ending with a link to a fundraising page for Jones’ campaign.

This is not the first time Jones has used Harris to solicit support for his campaign. She sent out a fundraising email for Jones last year.

The junior senator from California earlier this year also traveled to Birmingham in support of Jones’ reelection bid.

Harris during that appearance said that she and Jones “are always cuttin’ up and sending each other notes” in the Senate.

She added, “We were cuttin’ up in the impeachment hearings. Some of those words would not be spoken in church.”

Harris and Jones each voted twice to remove President Donald Trump from office at the conclusion of those impeachment hearings.

Her running mate on the Democratic ticket to unseat Trump has actively supported Jones’ campaign, as well. Biden campaigned in Alabama for Jones during the 2017 election.

Paige Lindgren, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, on Wednesday noted, “Despite his claims of bipartisanship, Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has hitched his wagon to a potential Biden-Harris administration.”

“By doing this in a state that overwhelming supports the President, Jones has given up on representing the conservative values that Alabamians hold true,” she concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn