Former Gov. Robert Bentley was a one-time Medicaid expansion opponent. However, since leaving office in 2017, Bentley has changed his stance.
During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5, Bentley reiterated his support for Medicaid expansion and questioned legislators who opposed it for fiscal reasons.
"Lawmakers are just passive," Bentley said. "They're going to do things that they think please a minority of people because a majority of people in this state would like to see Medicaid expanded. Now, we were against it originally, primarily because we were fighting the Affordable Care Act. We were the only ones left to fight the Affordable Care Act. And one of the things we did was not expand Medicaid, and we did not create state-based exchanges. That's how we fought it.
"But there is no reason now that they could not do it. I mean, if they can put $400 million in prison building, of money that is coming from the federal government that was supposed to go to reimbursement related to the COVID – you know, they ought to be using that money on health care. It's not just Medicaid that needs to be expanded. We need a comprehensive plan in this state to take some of the rural hospitals and make them into top-notch emergency centers to take care of automobile wrecks, heart attack victims, things like this, and send those patients to tertiary centers like Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery or wherever they need to be closest to. But you could create an organization that would help the whole state if you wanted to.
"It's just a matter of wanting to govern and get things accomplished," he added. "And nowadays, we don't have anybody down there that really wants to do anything."
Earlier this month, former State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Fairhope) warned of proration if the state moved to expand Medicaid roles. However, Bentley said there are mechanisms to prevent proration.
"When we were in office, one of the things that we did – we had to have more money into the general fund," Bentley explained. "We saw this coming – we saw the fact people were going to shop online, so what we did is we took 75% of the use taxes, and those are taxes that are for online sales taxes, and we put that into the general fund. And now the general fund is just booming with money. And [it] is because of what we did in 2014 and 2015. So, we're not going into proration because of that. We've got enough money. That's not a problem – I mean, it's a problem always, but we've got enough money to do what we need to do."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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