By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, January 11, 2018, the Donald Trump Administration granted waivers to ten states (Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin) from the federal government to implement work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Medicaid is an enormously expensive entitlement that costs both the states and the federal government billions of dollars. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson asked: “Why isn’t Alabama on this list?”
The Trump administration opened the door for state Medicaid programs, who had been asking for permission, to seek a federal waiver which would require work or other community engagement activities, such as volunteerism and job training. Alabama is not on that list.
Medicaid provides healthcare coverage for nearly 70 million Americans making it the largest government health insurance program. In Alabama, nearly 1 in 4 people receive Medicaid assistance, or about 1 million Alabamians.
“Government is not intended to meet every need a person requires,” Dawson said. “It cannot. We should move quickly to implement this in our state and provide opportunities for those who will be invited to participate in the employment opportunities.”
Dawson said, “I have always supported a ‘hand-up’ program from government, but when we create lifelong hand-outs, we inevitably find people who get complacent and just live off the system. This isn’t healthy for them or for the tax payers who are providing for them. If there are people who are able to work, and they are not working by choice, then we need to implement a program that will inspire, encourage or even require them to get to work in their community.”
Dawson claimed that by encouraging more people into the workplace, we will improve health and provide them dignity and respect for being a productive member of their community. It also may get them off costly government programs as they find a job providing health benefits.
“Businesses all over the country are looking at relocating to Alabama and with unemployment falling across the nation, there has never been a better time to find a job,” Dawson said. “So, we need to encourage– even push– people who might be comfortable in the government programs to get out and find a way back to work.”
Dawson said that his plan would not apply to those on disability or mental illness.
“Clearly, there are some who cannot work,” Dawson said. “We don’t need to make this a punishment of people who will be cut off because they can’t work, nor should we make this a program to shame those who cannot work. This is simply a way to get people who have gotten comfortable on a government program, or who fell out of work and didn’t have an incentive, to get back to work on their way to a more productive life, with a possibility to get them off the government programs long- term.”
In 2010 a Democratic Party controlled U.S. Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare); which expanded the costly Medicaid program to included able bodied non-senior adults. Alabama joined several other states in a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the Congress could not force the states to pay for the costly Medicaid expansion, forcing the Barack Obama Administration to make expansion optional for the states. Then Gov. Robert Bentley made the decision to reject the Medicaid expansion. The move avoided a long term general fund budget crisis; but it left hundreds of thousands of Alabamians that are too poor to qualify to purchase an Obamacare policy; but are not covered by Medicaid. That combined with lower Medicare reimbursements have posed a strain on Alabama hospitals. States that did accept the Medicaid expansion have many able-bodied people on Medicaid than Alabama does. Alabama Medicaid primarily insures children, poor seniors, the disabled, poor nursing home residents, and poor pregnant women. There are fewer able bodied persons in Alabama; than in states that accepted the Medicaid expansion.
Dawson is a popular Birmingham area evangelist.
Dawson, Gov. Ivey, state Senator Bill Hightower, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle are all running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.