Ken Hare In Depth: States seek expansion dollars without expandi - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Ken Hare In Depth: States seek expansion dollars without expanding Medicaid

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

With the Alabama Legislature on "spring break," let me touch on a little of this and a little of that, starting with the possibility -- however slim -- that Alabama's Republican leadership will decide to expand Medicaid.

So far, Gov. Robert Bentley has remained firmly among the list of Republican governors who seem intent on not expanding Medicaid in their states despite a growing number of studies suggesting it would mean a huge boost to state economies and jobs.

When the U.S. Supreme Court left it to the states to decide if they would participate in the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, a host of Republican governors rushed to say that they would not expand. But some of them have since relented after seeing studies that suggested it would mean jobs and economic expansions for their states, not to mention additional health care for many residents.

One scorecard recently listed 14 states (including Alabama) still in the "no expansion" category, with 25 states deciding to expand. Three additional states were listed as "leaning toward not participating" and two states "leaning toward participating," with six states undecided.

But now some states are exploring what appears to be middle ground -- a way to dip into federal Medicaid expansion dollars without expanding Medicaid programs in their states.

The New York Times reports that Tennessee is considering joining Ohio and Arkansas in negotiating with the Obama administration over the possible use of federal Medicaid money to pay premiums for commercial insurance that could be used to purchase private health insurance for low income residents through regulated insurance exchanges.

So far, no word if Alabama will pursue this alternative.

But another study is out that builds evidence that a true Medicaid expansion would boost Alabama's economy.

This study, commissioned by Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, suggests that a Medicaid expansion using virtually all federal dollars would in 2016 "support approximately 12,000 new jobs across all sectors of Alabama's economy."

[DOCUMENT: Alabama Appleseed Study (.pdf)]

That is actually a more conservative estimate of the impact of expansion of Medicaid than earlier studies found. But it adds to the growing evidence that Alabama will miss a major economic boost if it does not take advantage of the federal dollars available for expanding health care coverage.

'Made In Alabama' rebrand misses history

[EXTRA: State of Alabama unveils new branding to recruit business]

Shifting gears to another jobs-related story, the new "rebranding" of Alabama's economic development efforts centers on the phrase "Made In Alabama," and highlights an image of a red label carrying that motto.

The new "brand" apparently will be the focus of the state's economic development efforts over the next few years.

There's a lot to like about the new image -- it's clean and bright and easy to understand. The updated web site using the new image is also clean and bright, with a nice modern feel about it.

But the phrase itself doesn't really reflect the reality of economic growth in Alabama over the past decade or so.

"Made In Alabama" comes across as being aimed at traditional manufacturing. But in fact, Alabama's job growth since 2000 has been driven in very large measure by job gains in the health and education sectors of the economy, not by traditional manufacturing. Manufacturing since 2000 actually has seen an employment decline despite the growth of the state's automotive industry, according to al.com.

As the state's economy slowly rebounds, traditional manufacturing is rebounding as well. Such big projects as Airbus are getting lots of attention. But I cannot help but believe that in the long run, Alabama's economic growth will continue to be fueled more by the health field than nuts and bolts manufacturing.

The new brand can be stretched to fit the health sector of the economy, of course. Alabamians should hope that state and local economic developers pursue jobs no matter what sector of the state's economy they might fit into.    

Two stories make "You've got to be kidding" list 

Two stories -- one involving a Democrat and one a Republican -- prove once again that in politics, certain types of publicity really can be worse than no publicity, despite the adage to the contrary.

Let's start with the Republican. Dale Peterson won national media attention waving his gun as part of an online media campaign while unsuccessfully running for the office of state agriculture commissioner.

A few weeks ago he was back in the news after it was disclosed that he was charged with shoplifting. He claimed it was all a misunderstanding.

Now he has been charged again, and this time he claims it's all a conspiracy.

The latest shoplifting allegation involved a claim that Peterson opened a can of cashews, ate some, and returned the can to the store shelf. Yuck.     

As for his allegations of a conspiracy, they are -- pun intended -- nuts. No one is going to bother with developing a conspiracy against a losing political candidate who already had no political credibility.

State Rep. Joe Mitchell did have at least some political credibility before he went off the deep end recently. When Mitchell received an email opposing gun control legislation that was sent to all legislators, the Mobile Democrat went off like a blunderbuss.

He responded through his official email site, referring to the family of the sender of the rather innocuous original email as "slave-holding, murdering, adulterous, baby-raping, incestuous, snaggle-toothed, backward-a**ed, inbreed, imported criminal-minded kin folk."

The state Democratic Party rushed to distance itself from Mitchell, as did some fellow legislators.

Mitchell may still be able to win re-election despite this abusive response, but it's difficult to see how anyone could take him seriously now.

There are lessons here for Democrat and Republican elected officials alike -- when it comes to politics and most things in life, the adage that "there is no such thing as bad publicity" simply isn't true.

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Ken Hare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at khare@wsfa.com.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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