Alabama Legislators Want “Blood on the Floor”: Especially the Blood of Children and Grandparents

Well. I heard from a very credible source yesterday that our state legislators are not playing chicken with the budget this time. You know, it seems like every year they expect us to display panic and beg them to fund essential programs– it is so predictable it is almost like we have a set script. We get tired of it, but at the same time we think jeez, if we don’t play our assigned role, maybe they will do the bad thing.

This year may be different, if my source is correct. Their plan this time is to go ahead and pass a severely cut budget, which the governor will refuse to sign, and then override him. Then when there is “blood on the floor” (and I quote), they expect us to come screaming to them to pass taxes and re-fund the state. They do not feel they have support from their base, otherwise.

I don’t know. From my perspective, we already have blood on the floor. People in this state have been bleeding all over the floor for a long time, and it hasn’t mattered so far as the budget. The only blood I think the legislators care about is corporate blood and their own, so maybe the point is that business will begin fleeing the state once Medicaid is defunct and all the people in nursing homes have to move in with their families or be dumped on the street.

Getting even a level budget for mental health would not be a win, because there is major blood on the floor with our current budget. Getting the expected cut to Medicaid ($320 million, taking the federal match into account) would make the floor downright slippery. The cuts to doctors will be so sharp, around 40% cut to payments already well below private insurance rates, that I have personally heard several pediatricians say their plan would be to immediately drop Medicaid. Most practices have overhead in the range of 60 to 75%, so that 40% is at least the entire salary of the physician. There will not be enough of us left to see those suddenly doctor-less kids, even if we worked 24-7 without sleep. The 2 Children’s hospitals will close, because they depend on Medicaid money to fund their specialists. And good luck trying to get programs like that rebuilt to their current level of excellence, once they are gone. It takes decades.

Who will be affected first? The elderly in nursing homes. Children (guess they should take more personal responsibility). Because people of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, this is also a racist move. Some advocates are making a case by reminding legislators and voters that middle class elderly are in nursing homes using Medicaid funds, and that there are more poor white kids than black ones. Why should that even be said, as if poor elderly and black kids matter less? Only a racist and classist audience would need to be told such things.

I asked it there is anything at all we can do to stop this disaster, and my source told me we need to call our legislators. I’m going to add that you really need to talk to your neighbors, co-workers, etc and explain what is about to happen. Because legislators have told me previously that although phone and email contacts matter, they also use their in-house polling results, which are secret. They call their base on a regular basis to check in, and I am betting they are getting the no new taxes response from those voters.

If our legislators were ethical, they would be calling those voters not to ask their opinion but to persuade them– they would be pulling out the stops to stop the bleeding. They would stop putting forward bills that they know will cause us to waste tons of money defending federal lawsuits. The fact that they aren’t doing so says a lot.

I remember the last time this type of cut was proposed, and the legislators came up with a Hail Mary to borrow money for Medicaid– I had prominent progressive friends telling me that I was just playing the game by begging for votes to save the program– that I should let things play out, let the blood flow, call their bluff. So it isn’t just conservatives who are the problem. I do not believe an ethical person who understands these are not numbers– they are human beings– would promote such an idea. We all have our preferred ideas of where the funds should come from, and y’all, we do not have strength in numbers to bicker over that right now. If we do, we will surely lose the farm. I can say that a lottery would come too late and is not a solution for the current funding gap, which could begin as early as June. Otherwise, I’d support whatever taxes they are willing to pass, even though I’d prefer to stop corporate subsidies first.

My source says the fed will not likely permit our Medicaid program to be cut so much without responding. We could be taken into some kind of Medicaid custody. But… the kicker is that they can’t MAKE us write a check, so this is different from school integration. They can put key decision-makers in jail, they can withhold federal funding as leverage, but they can’t issue money from the state, raise our taxes for us, etc.

All that said, I would still call your legislators. I would tell them that level funding is not enough for mental health and that it is killing people as we speak, because of waiting times. And if you happen to have a job opportunity out of state, you might want to strongly consider it, especially if you have children. I’m going to stay as long as I can, but I do have a disabled adult family member who depends on both Medicaid and me, so there will be a limit. I don’t know how long my employer will be able to keep me, if well over my entire salary is defunded. Feel free to share all or part of this post if you think it will help.



Filed under Alabama Legislative Session 2015, Alabama Politics, Children's Issues, Medicaid

4 responses to “Alabama Legislators Want “Blood on the Floor”: Especially the Blood of Children and Grandparents

  1. Pippa, Thank you for staying current with the actions of our State Legislature! I have read every word of your blog and I agree 100% that we get the word out to all who will listen. The reality of allowing the Corporate world, non tax paying entities, control us longer and longer surely must end! Shame on every legislator in Montgomery for wimping out on their job instead of stepping up to the plate to make our State one we can market to the rest of the US!

  2. Karla Thomas

    l am on SSI and make $733 a month. I already pay cash for 9 of my prescriptions because Medicaid will only cover 5 and that co-pay is $3.90 for each. If it gets any worse I don’t know how I can live. Now I don’t have money for food after rent and monthly bills I don’t know what I am going to do if I have to pay more for more medical stuff. If I get sick I won’t be able to buy medicine. Levaquin is not free at Publix, and that is usually what I’m given when I get pneumonia.What are poor people supposed to do? Funny how I have nutrition affected medical problems like anemia…but iron pills are cheaper than food, right!

  3. BarbaraPower

    Pippa, Thank you for writing about this issue. Since you suggested spreading the word, I sent your posting URL to the director of NH-PNHP and asked him to distribute to the list-serv up here. What you describe about the “blood on the floor,” tactic is, unfortunately, all too common. Sadly it works every time at local, state, and national levels. And it has worked for decades. It is as despicable and deadly, in my view, as our so-called “War on Drugs;” an excuse to incarcerate the poor and eliminate basic rights for millions.

    Also, I thoroughly agree with your laying out the facts about what this sort of legislative aggression means at the front lines for MDs. I see this to be especially true in the areas you are involved in: pediatrics and mental health. Of course the most profound impact is on patients and their families.

    There is no logic to this – in Alabama, NH, or nationwide. At least 17% of our US GDP is healthcare; this is a gigantic piece of the economy. And it will fail. What you have written about and witnessed, and what I have witnessed, is an implicit decision to allow an ever growing proportion of citizens to suffer and die. The industry can hawk its wares ’till the cows come home, but if fewer and fewer can afford the “products/services” then this economic sector will fail. As mere citizens we may be dispensable but our spending on health care = the revenue and life blood of the industry and all its offshoots. The industry and the legislators it owns across the USA will ultimately spill its own blood ~ albeit with lots of profit along the way.

    Our various health care scam-legislation over the decades has an inevitable end point. It’s playing out now as we watch increasing domestic conflicts (perfect when one needs to sneak legislation through), and those without a lot of wealth going under; all to satisfy personal and corporate greed. Whether a cop with minimal education or a citizen with few life-options, we face off in predictable conflict while those with wealth and undue influence walk away. Injuries and gun shot wounds are both expense and revenue to this mega industry. Many, but not all, in the media are complicit.

    I do speak out and did successfully fight up here in the north to get, at least temporary local legislative approval for Expanded Medicaid. This will help thousands in the state and yet it does not provide MDs with enough compensation to stay in practice.

    The human lives that are literally sinking due to loss of their land from climate change are told to “adapt,” which is at least an acknowledgement of the problem. The same is true for those who are sinking due to health care issues: adapt. Adapt to this ripoff. Adapt to this injustice. Adapt to this war on the poor and vulnerable.

    There isn’t a large academic institution, or large academic medical center which does not have a Board consisting of corporatists in one guise or another. There is no enlightenment to be found, I am sorry to say.

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