Special session looms, but is a Medicaid solution there?

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A special session to address Medicaid funding seems inevitable. The governor has not officially called for a special session, but almost any lawmaker you talk to expects the special session to come soon.

Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday he would call a potential special session "later in the year." A previous conversation with a member of the governor's staff indicated the governor was looking at late summer or early fall.

The focus of the special session would be Medicaid, which entered the summer $85 million short of what the agency said it needed.

"We will come up with, again, some solution to solve the problems," Bentley said.

This is not the first time lawmakers have struggled to fund Medicaid. Last year's two special sessions focused on the state's shortfall in part because of the growing cost of Medicaid.

"It's the same as it has always been. There are a number of things that I put in the call, and there really is a limited of things you can do," Bentley said.

Those options are raising revenue, probably through taxes or a lottery, cutting programs or transferring money from the education budget.

Medicaid provides service to more than 20 percent of Alabamians, most of whom are children. Earlier this month Medicaid announced it would cut it's primary care bump, saving almost $15 million, but it still will not be enough.

The state is trying to move to a system of regional care organizations to help control Medicaid costs. If the state can't find the funding for this transition, it will miss out on more than $700 million in federal funding.

Bentley said Thursday he can help cut down the needed cost to fund Medicaid to around $15 million.

Bentley said he has had solutions in the past, but solutions without lawmaker support does not matter.

"I've offered a lot of solutions over the last three years, and the legislature decided they didn't want to do those," Bentley said.

Democratic Rep. John Knight, who is the chair of the black caucus, agrees in part, but he doesn't know if a special session will change the situation.

"He has proposed several solutions, and he's right. The legislature has not accepted the solutions that have been proposed so what makes the special session any different," Knight said.

Knight said without a consensus a special session would be a waste of time and money and if there is a consensus out there, he doesn't know about it.

"Well if so it is strictly among the Republican caucus because there has been little discussion in between the black caucus and the minority caucus as far as I know," Knight said.

One thing that may not be in the special session is the state's $800-million prison plan, which died on the very last day of regular session in May.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.