Gov. Robert Bentley and some lawmakers are going to Washington, D.C., this week for information about changes to the Affordable Care Act.
"The purpose of this trip is to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and continue to discuss the repeal/replace of the ACA, and the projected impact in Alabama," Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August said last week. "The governor, Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar, and legislators will specifically address the needs in Alabama."
August added that Alabama is one of 19 non-expansion states, and the governor wants to ensure Alabama's voice is heard as edits and changes are made to this piece of legislation.
Bentley for months has said states that didn't expand Medicaid enrollment under the ACA should be rewarded. Medicaid insures about 1 million Alabamians, many of them children.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, 14 million people would lose health care coverage in the first year, and 24 million by 2026 under the GOP-plan to repeal and replace the ACA.
Bentley last week said those people would be without insurance by choice.
"(The reports says) 24 million individuals who may not choose ? it does not say they're not going to have insurance ? they are not going to be required to take insurance ? it really is saying that the federal government cannot tell you you have to have insurance, or that a company has to provide insurance," he said outside the Capitol last week. "So, 24 million may be without it, but it will be at their own choice."
There has been pushback against the repeal and replace bill since those numbers were released.
Meanwhile, some unknowns in federal health care funding are impacting decisions in the Statehouse.
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, will be on the Washington trip.
"One of the purposes is to find out what they're thinking, what their intentions are, the appropriations," McCutcheon said. "We're interested in the CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) program, of course, because right now we don't have an answer to that, and that could be a major cost going into the next budget that we're working on right now."
If Congress decides not to fully fund CHIP next year, the state will need to find an additional $90 million.
Bill changes program
A bill in the Alabama Senate would put new restrictions on a college scholarship program for disabled veterans and their dependents.
Sen. Gerald Dial said the goal of Senate Bill 315 is to curb escalating costs.
"In 10 more years, it could be $200 million," Dial said last week.
In January, Veterans Affairs said a $33 million increase in funding was needed because of budget shortfalls in previous years, increased tuition costs, and an increase in students using the program.
That increase is squeezing out other higher education funding requests.
The bill increases residency requirements, says scholarship recipients must maintain a grade point average of at least 2.0, and limits the first two years of expenses to the average cost of community college.
Applicants for the scholarships must also first apply for federal aid. It also increases from 20 percent to 40 percent the disability rating a veteran must have to qualify for the program.
In the last three years, 7,982 scholarships have been awarded. Disabled veterans or their children, stepchildren, spouses or widows can receive up to 10 semesters at any Alabama state-supported college or university without paying tuition or fees, or for textbooks.
Dial said lawmakers were caught off guard by the increase in the program's expenses.
"This is a tough thing for me to handle," Dial said. "But it doesn't affect current people getting benefits."
The bill is in line for a vote in the Senate when lawmakers return from spring break April 4.
Polling place changes
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, has legislation to allow the Franklin County Commission to change and reduce some polling places.
House Bill 385 says the commission may establish voting centers by combining two or more precincts. Public hearings are required before any changes are made.
"The county commission right now can't move polling places," Morrow said last week. "There are some that have been polling places forever."
That includes at least one that doesn't have running water, he said.
"(The county) just needs the flexibility to be able to move them if needed," he said.
The bill is a local one, meaning it needs approval from the other two lawmakers representing the county Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, and Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. Stutts last week said he supports the legislation.