In approving the budget, the house approved a 38 percent cut to the Alabama Medicaid Agency, our state’s medical safety net that serves the health needs of more than 900,000 Alabamians.
That’s a whole lot of people who rely on Medicaid for prescription drug coverage, access to community pharmacies, dialysis, critical care transport for children and hospice and home care services. Cuts to Medicaid threaten access to primary and specialty care providers and are likely to crowd already overburdened emergency rooms.
While not every Alabamian receives assistance from Medicaid, every Alabamian’s pocketbook could feel the impact of these cuts when medical costs are increased because of higher emergency room traffic, late-stage diagnosis of diseases and other issues. We can solve this problem in part by raising the state’s tax on tobacco products.
Gov. Robert Bentley and other elected officials don’t want to talk about a tobacco tax increase as a solution, but they’re missing an opportunity to raise more than $212 million in new revenue, keep more than 20,000 people from tobacco-related deaths, and save more than $26 million in smoking-related treatment costs.
We have a health care crisis in Alabama. It’s time our elected leaders get serious about solving the problem. An increase in the tobacco tax would go a long way toward doing just that.