Pittman: Senate budget meant to start conversation on Medicaid

(Source: WSFA 12 News File Video)
(Source: WSFA 12 News File Video)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A new state budget the Alabama Senate passed Thursday has Alabama's Medicaid commissioner saying it could leave the state's biggest agency crippled.

Medicaid says it needs more than $100 million more or else everything from doctors to federal dollars could go away.

However, according to the Senate budget chair Trip Pittman, the budget could be meant to bring people to the table.

"We just don't have the dollars at this time to take from other government agencies and give it to Medicaid," said Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh.

There in essence is the problem. There is no doubt the state is short on cash, and the biggest drain on the lawmakers' limited supply is Medicaid.

"Medicaid makes its wish every year, and every year it's larger," Marsh said.

However, Medicaid is the backbone of the healthcare system, supporting 650,000 Alabamians.

If there is not enough funding, those doctors might not see enough money, forcing some to leave Alabama, which could impact everyone.

"They are not just Medicaid providers. So if you have pediatricians leaving the state or shutting down, then it would be your doctor, your hospital or your pediatrician," said Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar.

Doctors leaving would not be the end of it. Without proper funding, the state's transition to a system of regional care organizations would go away, and so would the federal wavier, which could bring the state more than $700 million in the next five years.

With all of this at stake, Pittman hopes to bring people to the table.

"They are going to look at this and go maybe this is serious enough to come together like we have numerous times over the last two decades and re-look at the revenue streams of the state and throw a life line as i always call it," Pittman said.

Pittman has compared this budget to Apollo 13, saying "Alabama we have a problem."

With the budget passing the Senate, not all the issues are solved, but he says the state is on the right track.

"We're headed back to earth but hopefully the house can get us home and hopefully everyone can come together and keep enough oxygen in the air and enough electricity to get us home," Pittman said.

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