Dr Robert Bentley has won the Republican nomination for governor for the state of Alabama. Congratulations to him and his staff for running an outstanding race. As I am a one issue voter and you may be also, I will post the information regarding healthcare for Dr Bentley and Mr Sparks from their websites: First Mr Sparks:

Medicaid is the nation’s largest payer of long-term care services, funding approximately 50% of all long-term care spending and nearly two-thirds of all nursing home residents.

The next Governor of Alabama must deal with a horrific impending financial crisis that will have a major effect on our seniors, children, and other at-risk populations.  Our Medicaid program is designed to meet the needs of our people but a very real Medicaid disaster lurks in the very near future.

This essential program is currently being propped up by federal stimulus funds.  When those funds run out, Alabama will be left with an unimaginable hole in one of its most critical programs.

Today, more than 817,000 Alabamians are enrolled in Medicaid – that’s 17% of the state’s population. Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 50,000 people in the past two years.  This jump in enrollment comes at a time when state revenue collections in support of Medicaid are falling drastically.

I am the only candidate running for Governor with any plan to deal with the looming financial disaster facing our state and our most vulnerable citizens.

The 2010 Alabama state Medicaid budget is $4.9 billion.  Of that total amount, Alabama is responsible for approximately $1.1 billion. The General Fund allocates only $308 million of that $1.1 billion, leaving a $700 million hole to be filled by federal stimulus money.

Over the next two years, the state stands to receive some $850 million in federal stimulus funds to support its Medicaid programs.   Without this massive infusion of federal stimulus funding, Medicaid as we know it would not exist.

In 2011, the federal stimulus money will run out – but the folks who need Medicaid will still be here.  And who are these people?

Nearly one million Alabamians are eligible for some type of Medicaid coverage.

  • Over 50% of all births are paid for by Medicaid.
  • 39% of Alabama’s children depend on Medicaid for health coverage.
  • 20% of Alabama’s elderly residents are Medicaid eligible.
  • 65% of all nursing home beds in Alabama are funded by Medicaid.
  • 74% of the nursing home residents in participating facilities are eligible for Medicaid.

Next year, hundreds of thousands in Alabama stand to lose essential medical care.  This crisis will affect everyone from elementary school children to the thousands of elderly in our nursing homes.

I am the only candidate with a plan to deal with the impending crisis in Medicaid.  My proposal to regulate and tax casino gambling in Alabama will protect those in our state who can least afford medical care.   As I’ve shown before, based on data from the state of Mississippi, developing casino gambling as a revenue source will stabilize Medicaid in Alabama.

Other candidates in this race aren’t talking about this financial crisis.  When the people of this state realize the enormous budget deficits we are facing, they will not be content with abstract speeches and empty promises.

Sometime next spring, you’ll see an array of candidates trying to hurry up and get in the game.  Well, I’m already in it.  We don’t have time for political theater and gimmickry just to win a primary.  We need a candidate who speaks the truth and has the courage to attack the problem head on.

The fact of the matter is that we are in a major crisis and the choice of a lifetime is barreling down the track right at us.  The choices are obvious and unbearably painful.

Without new revenue, the choice will be either cutting vital services for our elderly, our children, and the poor, or imposing the largest tax increase in the history of this state.

I find both of these options to be wholly unacceptable, which is why I have proposed a new revenue source for the state of Alabama.  We must tax and develop the fastest growing industry in the state –gambling.

Politicians are ignoring the fact that bingo halls are growing faster than kudzu.  It’s time to stop playing games and start using the fastest growing industry in our state to help fund our nursing homes and others who depend on Medicaid.

To the seniors of this state I make this promise–when Ron Sparks is your governor, you won’t have to worry about whether or not your services are going to be cut.

To those of you who have family in nursing homes, I promise you that when I’m governor, I’ll make sure that the resources continue to be available to provide your loved ones with the dignity and level of care they deserve.

Followed by Dr Bentley:

o As a physician running for Governor, I am in a unique position to understand health care issues, and to protect Alabama from the unwarranted and unnecessary federal intrusion into our personal health care choices;

o I started laying the groundwork for Alabama’s rejection of Obamacare by pre-filing a Constitutional Amendment on October 13, 2009 which will prohibit any person, employer, or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.  It also codifies Alabama’s 10th Amendment rights over this issue;

o I have real-world solutions that will result in affordable and accessible health care for all Alabamians without bankrupting our nation or pushing us closer toward a government-controlled, single-payer system.

National Solutions to Reduce Costs in America’s Health Care System

As Governor, I will work with other conservative Governors to encourage Congress to pass federal legislation to drive down prices by increasing competition, while working within a capitalist framework. Those provisions include:

A. Portability of Insurance across State Lines. There is no valid reason why Alabamians should be prohibited from purchasing health insurance policies from companies in other States. By allowing the people of Alabama to have access to all of the country’s health insurance products, competition would increase and cause health insurance premiums to decline.

B. Tax Deductibility for the Self-Employed. Unemployed individuals and those who work for small businesses that do not provide health benefits should be allowed the same 100% tax deduction for health insurance costs that corporations receive.

C. Meaningful Tort Reform. As a physician, I can attest to the fact that the practice of defensive medicine is a strong factor in the rising costs of medical care in America.  Meaningful tort reform legislation to end lawsuit abuse against the medical profession is necessary to make any significant impact on the costs of health care.  Establishing a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages would end the practice of ordering unnecessary, expensive tests simply to avoid lawsuits.  It would also significantly reduce the role of trial lawyers in our medical system.

D. Change Medicaid Awards. Currently, Medicaid dollars are allocated to the States on a match basis, meaning the federal government matches whatever each state spends. This should change immediately to a system that allocates Medicaid dollars based on need so that States with the most urgent needs would receive the most funds. For example, if Alabama has 5% of the nation’s impoverished individuals, Alabama should receive 5 % of federal Medicaid money regardless of how much money the state allocates for health care for the needy.

E. Medicare Payments to Medical Professionals. Any increase in federal Medicare spending should be directed to Medicare to increase payments to hospitals and primary care physicians.

Alabama-Specific Health Care Solutions

We do not need to wait for the federal government to act.  There are solutions that we can enact in Alabama to increase the affordability of health care without the need to raise taxes or borrow from future generations.  These are:

A. Establish a Statewide Insurance Exchange. A state insurance exchange would encourage more companies to write health insurance policies for Alabamians.  It will also increase competition among insurance companies, which will drive down costs for Alabamians.

B. Tax Incentives. We must encourage health insurance companies from all over the country to write policies in Alabama. By offering tax incentives to companies that provide health insurance to Alabamians, more companies would do business in our state, which would increase health care access.

C. Health Savings Accounts. Establishing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in Alabama will add a much-needed consumer element to medicine. Much like an IRA, HSAs allow individuals to contribute pre-tax finds into an account explicitly dedicated to pay for medical costs. Coupling these accounts with high deductable insurance policies will save Alabamians millions of dollars.

D. Tax Deductions. Alabamians who pay their own insurance premiums should be able to deduct 100% of the premium costs on their Alabama Income Taxes.

E. Electronic Medical Records. We should immediately adopt a Statewide, interconnected electronic medical records system tailored for each medical specialty.

F. Individual Ownership of Medical Records. Each Alabamian should be allowed to own their personal medical records in an electronic format.  This will allow patients to keep their records on a portable keychain-sized flash drive to bring with them to any doctor they visit. This will allow quick, accurate sharing of information between a patient’s doctors and reduce the need for repetitive testing, which in turn will reduce costs.

G. Prescription Transfers. By encouraging the electronic transfer of prescriptions from the physician to the pharmacist, errors and prescription abuse can be drastically reduced.

H. Tax credits for Indigent Care. There are many doctors who treat indigent patients for no pay. These healthcare providers should receive tax credits, and special emphasis should be given to doctors who are required to treat the uninsured as a result of working on a hospital staff.

I. Mandate cost savings education. All medical students should receive special training on reducing health care costs during the final year of school and during their residencies.

J. More primary care physicians. Obamacare will drive good doctors away from the practice of medicine. That is the exact opposite of what we need in Alabama and across the United States. We should encourage training more primary care physicians, not fewer. To accomplish this goal, we should dedicate 25% of each Alabama medical school class to students who will enter family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN, or general surgery. Furthermore, we should award $40,000 per year scholarships to each of student who pursues primary care.  Upon completion of their medical training, those students will be required to provide full-time medical service for four years in a medically underserved area of Alabama.  This will produce an additional 60 primary care physicians a year. However, Alabama needs at least 100 doctors per year to meet existing and projected needs.  The additional 40 primary care doctors will be trained through a new Alabama Medical Education Consortium program. This program will be known as the Alabama Health Service Corps. We also should establish similar programs for nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, and other ancillary health care providers.

In Alabama, we have an advantage that few other States have in fighting the left-wing agenda on health care. By having a physician in the Governor’s Office, we will have a knowledgeable, committed, conservative voice to ensure that Alabama remains an “Obamacare Free Zone.”

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