By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Albritton says virus used to push politics

State senator says governor, others using COVID-19 to push their political agendas with money


May 14, 2020

Alabama State Sen. Greg Albritton said some factions in Montgomery are trying to use the coronavirus to push political agendas with the expansion of Medicaid at the top of the list.

"One of our left wingers is meeting with the governor tomorrow (Thursday) and push for the expansion of Medicaid," Albritton said.

Albritton also said false figures on how much such an expansion would cost are also circulating. He said some are saying it will cost the state $168 million the first year and $38 million a year in subsequent years.

"I don't know where those figure come from," Albritton said. "Medicaid has always had an increase in premiums with no changes in the services.

He said the state is now spending about $856 million to cover about 1 million people on Medicaid or about $800 per person, per year. He said that figure was about $700 per person last year with the same number of people.

He said the proposal to add 200,000 to 300,000 more people to Medicaid would drive the cost up anywhere from 20 to 35 percent.

"That would be another $240 million each year," Albritton said.

He said the argument is the state would pull in new federal dollars by expanding Medicaid, saying the federal government currently pays about $7,000 per year per person for people on Medicaid in Alabama.

"These numbers just don't add up," Albritton said. "The cost keeps climbing. Until we can address how we're going to pay for this and recognize the true cost it won't get anywhere."

Albritton said some proponents of expanding Medicaid say it's needed to protect rural hospitals.

"We've got to find another answer for rural hospitals," Albritton said. "We had rural hospitals before Medicaid. We have to find another way. Hospitals are geared toward Medicaid."

Albritton also said there is a fight going on between the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey over the $1.78 billion the state received in federal money due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That's almost our entire General Fund budget," Albritton said of the federal stimulus money. "The governor says that's money President Trump gave to the governors. That money came into the state treasury, not to Kay Ivey."

"We are demanding that the Legislature be involved in how and where the money goes," Albritton said.

He also said the money comes with strings and earmarks from the federal government and if it is not spent properly the state will have to pay it back.

"We have to have a say," Albritton said. "It's our constitutional obligation. If not, the governor becomes another arm of the federal government."

Albritton said Gov. Ivey is claiming the Legislature had already appropriated the money to her but he says that's not true.

"The population of Alabama doesn't want one person to have control of all that money," Albritton said. "It's some of the same ole cronies who had 'D's" by their names for many years," he said. "They've switched to 'R's' but their agendas haven't changed."

Albritton also said Gov. Ivey has already spent about $12 million of the stimulus money but the legislators don't know what it was spent on.

"We need to find out where and why," Albritton said.

Albritton also said the Legislature is looking into passing some of the stimulus money along to counties and municipalities but no plans have been developed. He said the local governments are requesting 45 percent of funds.

Again, he said if those funds are passed along to counties and municipalities and not spent appropriately, the state would have to pay that money back to the federal government.


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