MONTGOMERY — Alabama Senate Democrats proposed legislation Tuesday for the state to expand its Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.
They hope Republicans will join them.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford, R-Russellville, would allow for the expansion of Medicaid to about 300,000 new enrollees, most of them working poor who cannot afford health insurance. Bedford introduced the bill, co-sponsored by the 10 other Senate Democrats, and asked Republicans to put their names on it, too.
Democrats have said the expansion, funded entirely by the federal government for the first three years, would be the economic equivalent of landing a major employer in the state.
“This is an opportunity bigger than Mercedes, bigger than Airbus,” Bedford said.
But the minority party doesn’t have the votes to pass the legislation unless some Republicans join them. That could be a tough sell in a state where many GOP members, including the governor, have said they don’t like the Affordable Care Act and don’t want to expand Medicaid in its current state.
“I don’t think it will pass,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said.
Earlier this week, a Republican House member told The Decatur Daily that if significant changes were made to Medicaid in the next few months, he could see Medicaid being expanded in 2014.
Marsh said talk of Medicaid expansion is premature.
“I never say never,” he said. “But you have to let those (changes) happen before you talk about expanding it.”
Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, asked which lawmakers wanted to tell Alabamians the state was deciding some of them can’t have health insurance.
“Which one of us is going to look those people in the eye and say, ‘Not you?’ ” she said.
Mary Sell can be reached at email@example.com.