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Orr: Push for Medicaid expansion is ‘crazy’

Hospital margins in Alabama have dropped 79 percent since the start of the pandemic, according to a study by Kaufman Hall, a national healthcare and higher education consulting firm. As a result, some hospital leaders are calling on the Alabama Legislature to pass some kind of Medicaid expansion.

“When I talk to business leaders that are opposed to Medicaid expansion, I ask, ‘Why do you want to pay for this instead of letting the federal government pay for it?’” Huntsville Hospital CEO Jeff Samz told the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber on Thursday. “I think it’s a better way to do it.”

Friday on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said he doesn’t believe there’s any will to pass a Medicaid expansion this year.

“Medicaid expansion, it’s been attempted year after year after year,” Orr said. “Do I think the Legislature approves such an expansion? No. Do I see … a political posturing by the hospitals for ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money? Those decisions are being made now. So I see them crying ‘Fire, fire, we need relief, we need help.’

“Some of that is true, but when you look at and you study the issue about hospitals, the whole world of healthcare has changed.”

Orr said the biggest hurdle to ever passing an expansion is the price tag.

“It would cost the state $200-$300 million a year for Medicaid expansion,” he said. “And the general fund budget’s in good shape now, but it can change and turn on a dime; there’s just not a lot of appetite to take on that additional cost.”

Orr also talked about why some of the business groups are currently supporting a Medicaid expansion in the Yellowhammer State.

“They’ve got the business community, the BCA, of course Blue Cross, all these big business organizations behind them and going to be pushing Medicaid expansion,” he said. “Well why is that? Well it is because they see more money coming from Washington, as if it’s ‘free money,’ coming in from Washington that will be poured in to the healthcare system so everybody benefits. And more money into the system means more money for sales taxes, more employees.”

The state senator believes its foolish to make the state more dependent on federal dollars.

“Healthcare chews up or gobbles up more discretionary money that’s out there, and somebody’s got to pay it,” he said, “and we know the feds, they don’t have the money in the first place. And then you push off some of that responsibility on the state of Alabama budgets, and the business associations that are pushing this, they know that they’re probably not going to be taxed.

“Well who will be taxed to come up with another couple hundred million dollars to pay for this? Mom and pop, middle class workers, et cetera.”

Orr reiterated his frustration at those in the business community who are pressuring lawmakers about doing this right now.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “We all know the federal deficit and the federal spending. When’s the house going to fall in? We know it’s going to happen unless something changes, and nothing is wired up there to change anything.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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