Last week, the federal government set aside $72.6 million in grant money for states that would implement a series of objectives designed to increase enrollment of children in Medicaid.
These included things like making children continuously eligible for Medicaid; eliminating the need for hard-to-schedule, face-to-face interviews to determine eligibility; and establishing a joint application process so parents can apply at the same time for Medicaid and ALL Kids, Alabama's health-insurance program for low- and middle-income children.
Alabama met six of the eight goals. As a result, the state's Medicaid agency was granted $39.1 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a performance bonus — more than half of the available grant money.
Any way you spin it, that's good news.
Unfortunately, the frustrating side of Alabama politics has again bubbled up. Instead of being thankful for a positive result, squabbles have emerged over who should get the credit.
When Gov. Bob Riley made the announcement, state Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, who chairs the House budget committee, said the Republican governor was trying to take credit for the accomplishment — even though he vetoed the 2010 budget that expanded ALL Kids to cover middle-income children, as the Associated Press pointed out.
Riley shot back, saying the award was for what was done in fiscal 2009, not 2010, and that Knight's criticism was out of line. "At some point we have to put partisan politics aside and say this was the direct result of state employees working above and beyond the call of duty," Riley said last week.
Take a deep breath, guys.
This is not about the governor's veto. Neither is it about the state Legislature's recent efforts to expand ALL Kids. This award was in recognition of the hard work of a collection of unnamed politicians and bureaucrats who took up the challenge, met the goals and are not squabbling over who should get the credit.
They didn't do it for the money they would receive. State employees didn't get raises this year.
They didn't do it for the glory. Riley recognized their collective effort, but none of the men and women in the trenches doing the heavy lifting received individual praise.
Instead, they did it for the children and the satisfaction of a job well done. More Alabama children now will be insured. Children with health insurance get more consistent medical care. Children who receive medical care on a regular basis are healthier. Children who are healthier often live more productive lives and cost society less in the long run.
So let's hear it for the hard-working state bureaucrats. They deserve the credit.