Renae McKinney, director of public relations for Walker Baptist Medical Center, spoke to the group about a proposed constitutional amendment that authorizes the transfer of $437 million into the General Fund over the next three years.
“This is not the optimal solution, but the governor has said we are not going to raise taxes,” McKinney said. “They have to come up with some revenue generation for the General Fund. That’s what the Legislature has been tasked with doing if we pass them and give them the extra time to do it.”
The money will be taken from the Alabama Trust Fund, which is commonly compared to a state savings account and currently has $2.4 billion in revenues from sales of offshore drilling rights and royalties.
McKinney said the fate of the amendment will affect any groups who receive their support from the General Fund, including rural fire departments, the courts and state prisons. However, medical professionals and their patients are expected to be among the hardest hit if the amendment fails and Medicaid is cut by 17 percent.
“One thing we are afraid of is that we would lose a lot of our physcians who rely on Medicaid funding,” McKinney said.
McKinney added that the state also stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds for Medicaid if its budget is not sustained at a certain level.
McKinney cited several statistics that described the more than 900,000 people in Alabama who are currently covered by Medicaid.
She said 42 percent are blind or disabled, 23 percent are senior citizens, 24 percent are pregnant women and children and eight percent are low-income adults.
“So we are looking at a lot of senior citizens and children who would be affected by this,” McKinney said.
Supporters of the amendment, who have formed a coalition called Keep Alabama Working, say that its passage is necessary to save 10,000 jobs in Alabama.
The wording of the amendment states that it is being proposed to “prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly and mothers.”
Literature distributed by Keep Alabama Working lists the release of 9,500 prison inmates and layoff of 1,185 corrections officers as possible consequences if the amendment were to fail.
High-profile endorsements of the amendment include Gov. Robert Bentley, state health officer Don Williamson, Alabama Education Association, Alabama Hospital Association and Alabama Nursing Home Association.
Critics of the amendment include Tea Party groups throughout the state and state Rep. Craig Ford, who recently wrote an editorial stating that Democrats will propose closing certain corporate tax loopholes and raising the tobacco tax if the amendment does not pass.