Good morning! Man, was that rocket launch yesterday really cool, or what? This is your Daily News Digest for Wednesday, February 7.
1. Budget talks promising
- Congress appears close to passing another stop-gap spending measure to keep the government open.
- The House got the ball rolling last night by passing a Continuing Resolution that prioritizes increased funding for the military and community health centers.
- That bill is likely to be re-written in the Senate, according to the Associated Press.
- Read The Washington Post for the latest on where the Senate stands on a bigger budget deal.
2. Rural hospitals face closure
- This is concerning. Rural hospitals in Alabama could close down if Congress does not restore Medicaid reimbursement funding.
- That’s according to the Alabama Hospital Association and its president, Dr. Don Williamson.
- ABC 33/40 reporter Lauren Walsh’s story on the subject is well worth your time to read and watch this morning.
Why is this happening?
- The federal government reimburses hospitals that care for a disproportionate share of Medicaid and uninsured patients. It’s called the DSH – or Disproportionate Share Hospital reimbursement.
- Alabama Hospitals already receive the lowest Medicare (not Medicaid) reimbursement in the country under the Medicare Wage Index. For example, hospitals in California receive reimbursements 2 to 3 times higher than Alabama hospitals for providing the same care.
- That it makes it harder for Alabama hospitals – especially rural ones – to sustain Medicaid cuts enacted by Congress.
- Right now, Alabama rural hospitals have an average operating margin of about -11 percent. Hospital leaders say rural facilities can’t operate on that margin for much longer without the federal government restoring DSH reimbursements.
- Restoring the funding is part of ongoing budget negotiations in Congress.
3. AG sues opioid manufacturer
- Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma – the manufacturer of OxyContin.
- The lawsuit claims the manufacturer created a deceptive marketing campaign that misled patients about the benefits of the drugs and the risks of addiction.
- “It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens,” Marshall said.
- Marshall said he anticipates the lawsuit will eventually be transferred to Ohio where multi-district litigation is ongoing.
- Alabama ranks first in the nation in the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita. Alabama had more than 5.8 million opioid prescriptions written in 2015 – or more than 1.2 prescriptions per person.
- It is estimated that more than 30,000 Alabama adults over age 17 are dependent upon heroin and prescription painkillers.
- Read more here.
4. News briefs
- Everybody is happy when revenues are up.
- Alabama teachers and school employees would receive a 2.5 percent pay raise under the Education Trust Fund budget currently being deliberated in the House.
- First Class Pre-K got more, but not as much as they wanted. So did the Community College System.
- Read Brian Lyman’s story in The Montgomery Advertiser for more details, including what was said about dipping into the Rolling Reserve “proration prevention” account.
- State Superintendent Ed Richardson called the proposed ETF “the best budget since I’ve been serving in some superintendent capacity,” as Mike Cason reports.
Let’s talk about grades
- Speaking of education, read A+ Vice President Thomas Rains excellent op-ed making the case for using the state’s school report cards as a starting point for conversations about improving education.
In God We Trust
- The House passed a bill making it definitely okay for public buildings to display the phrase “In God We Trust,” but not before spending hours debating things like Francis Scott Key’s alleged racism.
- Airbus may increase production of its Mobile-build A320 jets to keep up with rising demand. That would be great for Mobile and the State of Alabama.
- “Airbus said previously it aims to produce 60 A320s a month by mid-2019, up from an average of 50 in the first quarter of last year, across production lines in Mobile, France, Germany and China. Outgoing Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier indicated last month that there is enough demand for Airbus to be producing as many as 70 of the aircraft a month, adding that any decision would be left to his successor.”
5. There she is
- A former Miss America is running for Congress in Alabama.
- Democrat Mallory Hagan announced yesterday she will challenge Congressman Mike Rogers in Alabama’s 3rd District.
- While Hagan is from Lee County and has worked their as a news anchor the last few years, she won her Miss America crown from New York.
- Hagan’s celebrity will surely draw some attention to the race, but let’s remember that AL-3 is a deeply conservative district.
- Her support for increased gun control and abortion-on-demand are just some of the stances not likely to sit well with the majority of East Alabama voters.
- Quotes like this are sure to haunt the candidate once the race gets going:
- “I was always a little more liberal-thinking than my hometown… And I just knew that I needed to get out for a little bit, and I needed to find myself.”
AL.COM – For decades Alabama has not funded transportation, bill aims to end that.
AL.COM – Roy Moore wants hearing before judge in accuser’s lawsuit.
AL.COM – Some contenders for Amazon’s new HQ say no thanks.
AL.COM – Francis Scott Key reference fuels Alabama House ‘In God We Trust’ debate.
AL.COM – Judge issues 25-page opinion on stay of execution for Doyle Lee Hamm.
AL.COM – Stay lifted for Alabama death row inmate, convicted of killing two on Christmas Eve 1993.
ALABAMA NEWS CENTER – Airbus mulls raising output of jet built in Alabama as demand soars.
AL.COM – Contributor Mike Huckabee: Why conservatives should support juvenile justice reform.
AL.COM – Education budget funds pay raise, $20 million pre-K increase.
AL.COM – Former Miss America Mallory Hagan announces run for Alabama congressional seat as Democrat.
AL.COM – UNA professor Butler Cain ends campaign for Congress.
AL.COM – ACLU lawsuit: Transgender people harmed by Alabama driver license requirement.
AL.COM – Alabama AG files suit against opioid manufacturer for contributing to epidemic.
AL.COM – International Paper increasing investment in Selma mill to $552 million.
AL.COM – Foley’s UTC plant delivers first ‘neo’ engines to Airbus in Mobile.
AL.COM – Contributor Darcy Corbitt: Transgender woman: the state shouldn’t tell us who we can be.
AL.COM – Contributor Clete Wetli: Understanding the ‘Mulvaney Syndrome’.
AL.COM – Contributor Thomas Raines: A-F school grading is a conversation starter, not a condemnation.
SENATE SKETCHES – “Senate Sketches,” Sen. Hank Sanders’ weekly message to his constituents.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER – Democrat Audri Scott Williams qualifies for Congress.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER – Whatley introduces bill to give tax credits to border wall builders.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama sues Purdue Pharma.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Payday lending to be debated in 2018 Alabama legislative session.
EDUCATION MATTERS – Larry Lee: A Principal’s Letter To Terri Collins About A-F
ABC 33/40 – AHA: Rural Alabama hospitals will close if federal funding not restored.
GADSDEN TIMES – Contributor Don Boozer: Marriage license bill threatens wedding industry.
ANNISTON STAR – The Anniston Star: DIY marriage paperwork in Alabama.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Brew Tech’s top 50 world robotics ranking is a first for Alabama.
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Lots of choices: Voters will face decisions at federal, state, local levels on 2018 ballots.
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle: Opioid litigation is a slippery slope.
DOTHAN EAGLE – Columnist Steve Flowers’ Inside the Statehouse: State party censure could not touch Richard Shelby.
WASHINGTON POST – Senate leaders see two-year budget deal within their grasp.
WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s ‘marching orders’ to the Pentagon: Plan a grand military parade.
WASHINGTON POST Reporter Karen Tumulty: Taking back the House will be harder than Democrats think.
WASHINGTON POST – Americans are getting smarter about politics in at least one important way.
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump’s Latest Surprise: Shutdown Might Be a Good Idea