The Alabama General Fund averted a crisis this week when Congressional Republicans and Democrats reached a comprise on the government shutdown and agreed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next six years.
Roughly 85,000 children across the state are covered by CHIP, which is known as “ALL Kids” in Alabama, and their health coverage would have expired in March had Congress not reauthorized the program. Another 70,000 children in the state are covered by Medicaid.
Estimates indicated that federal failure to reauthorize CHIP would have cost Alabama between $40 to $90 million.
ALL Kids provides insurance coverage for uninsured children in families between the Medicaid limit — 146 percent of the federal poverty level or $2,485 monthly income for a family of three — to 312 percent of the federal poverty level.
Under the six year-renewal, federal funding would continue at current levels for two fiscal years. Beginning in fiscal year 2020, the state will have to pick up some of the costs as an enhanced matching rate expires.
Alabama was the first state in the nation to set up a CHIP program when Congress first created it in 1998.
The CHIP reauthorization provides even more good news for the traditionally beleaguered General Fund budget.
The Alabama Medicaid Agency previously reported it will carry forward $53 million to the FY2019 budget as a result of lower than expected costs in the drug program. As a result of the carryover offset, the agency is requesting $757 million, which is less than the $810 million it received in the FY2018 budget.
Another luxury we have not previously enjoyed is an extra $93 million carryover from FY2018 in the General Fund, which will provide additional comfort in what has traditionally been a tight budget. The additional funding comes from the state’s settlement in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster that deeply affected Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
The Alabama House on Tuesday passed a bill by State Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark that clarifies how U.S. Senate vacancies are filled and saves millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.
Under current law, the governor appoints a interim senator to a vacant U.S.
Senate seat and a special election costing in excess of $10 million taxpayer
dollars is held.
• Under Clouse’s legislation, the governor still appoints an interim senator, but an election is held in conjunction with the next regularly scheduled election, which takes place every two years. As a result, the General Fund would save almost $11 million in unnecessary expenses for a special election.
36 other states across the nation use the same process outlined in Clouse’s bill for filling U.S. Senate vacancies. Despite Democrat protests to the contrary, there is no partisan intent to this legislation, which was pre-field in the Legislature in August, well before the special general election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore.
The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, which is comprised of 36 professionals from the mental health, law enforcement, and other fields, released its report, findings, and recommendations to Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday.
Among the items in the 2018 House Republican Caucus’ “Flag, Family and Country” legislative agenda was a pledge to, “closely monitor the work of Governor Kay Ivey’s Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council and quickly review and consider any suggested legislation that it may put before the body.
The group’s report outlined several recommendations for combatting the opioid crisis, which included improving and modernizing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and a request for $1.1 million in funding to accomplish the project.
The report also recommended providing naloxone, which can be used to quickly reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, to police and other first responders.
Council members called for a messaging campaign to be developed to destigmatize addiction and educate all Alabamians on the science of drug addiction.
Allowing the Alabama Department of Mental Health to provide training and education to law enforcement officers and members of the Judiciary on addiction, how it affects the brain, and best practices for dealing with these individuals was another recommendation included in the report.
The report also asked the Legislature to establish the crimes of trafficking in fentanyl and trafficking in carfentanil and to pass legislation to expand immunity to additional classes of persons who prescribe naloxone and to certain service providers who distribute naloxone.
The full report and complete list of recommendations may be viewed at this link on the Internet: https://www.scribd.com/document/369920282/Alabama-Opioid-Overdose-Addiction-Council-Report#from_embed