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State Sen. Weaver: Funding will still be a hurdle for expanding Medicaid

It has been a week since State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) was elected to the Alabama Senate with a decisive victory over her Democrat opponent Virginia Applebaum.

Now, as a state senator with an extensive background in health care, having worked in the health care field and as a part of the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, Weaver is certain to be a part of discussions about potential solutions to rural health care woes throughout the state.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” the state senator weighed in on some possible options, one of which could be the expansion of Medicaid.

“[M]edicaid expansion was always part of the state health discussion over the 10 years I served in the House,” she said. “As you know, I just got elected Tuesday night to the Senate, so I haven’t been a part of any of the recent discussions about a Medicaid expansion that would be here in Alabama. But you know, over the past 10 years, there hasn’t been an within the Republican caucus to expand Medicaid. The problem in the past has always been how do we afford to continue the expanded program after the federal dollars go away after the first few years?”

“As someone who represents an area with rural hospitals — you know, I have three hospitals in District 14, I understand the challenges that they face,” Weaver continued. “If it can be done in a way the state can afford it, it would make sense. But, thus far, no one has found that path yet. Each year, there are projections, and there are impacts that the budget chairs evaluate as we start looking at the budgeting process. This year, these projections are probably going to include funding incentives provided by the American Rescue Plan Act. Chairman [Steve] Clouse and Chairman [Greg] Albritton will almost certainly be involved in those discussions, as well as friend Bill Poole, who recently got appointed finance director. I look forward to hearing those discussions and look forward to being a part of those discussions. But at the moment, I’ve not heard anything that would make me think Republican members of the legislature have changed their view from the past.”

The Shelby County Republican cited the health care facilities in her district as a possible model for other parts of the state to follow when it comes to rural health care.

“[R]ural health care and rural hospitals are not the same,” she said. “But, rural hospitals provide a lot of the rural health care within the area that they serve. I’m proud to represent a district that includes some of the state’s best practices for rural health care and have been working so closely over the 10 years and, you know, I served as the health chairman. In my district, I have three great examples of rural health care systems that are taking great care of people. I have Bibb Medical Center in Centreville. They have not only a rural hospital, but they have primary care and a nursing facility, retirement home. When I was in the House, they opened a rural delivery unit at a time when most of those rural labor and delivery units were closing down.”

“I have in my district Cahaba Medical Care,” Weaver continued. “You may be familiar with them, but they are a community-based organization that has federally qualified health centers. They have a family residency program. They a nurse practitioner program. They look not only at rural underserved areas but urban underserved areas, too. And they have access points all over central Alabama. Chilton County — I’m thinking about them. They also have a hospital that was recently built after the other hospital closed. They do a great job taking care of Chilton County. As we go forward rural health care and how we make things people, I hope people will look to what we have District 14 because I think these programs could be replicated and really be used to affect outcomes in Alabama for the better.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.