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Expanding Medicaid Will Help All Alabamians

By Rep. Darrio Melton

Last session, legislators and citizens called on Governor Bentley to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, and he maintained that he had no plans for expansion.

I’m not going to accept that as an answer, Governor. We must expand Medicaid in Alabama.

Not only is providing access to basic health care the right thing to do, the economic benefits will stretch far beyond the 435,000 currently uninsured Alabamians who will be covered under the expansion.

Right now 40 percent of our state’s children are enrolled in Medicaid. Those children make up half of Medicaid’s total enrollment for the state. Furthermore, half of the babies born in Alabama are born under Medicaid.

By expanding this program, we will provide more mothers with the option to choose live and to raise a healthy baby. We will provide more children with the care they need to grow into strong, smart adults.

Furthermore, the economic effect of expansion will stretch far beyond the recipients of Medicaid.

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Medicaid expansion and the addition of $1.2 billion in federal dollars to our Medicaid program would add an additional $960 million that would be spent on health care in Alabama. That money would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs and add $1.4 billion in economic activity in 2016 alone. It would also save the taxpayers an estimated $512 million in uncompensated care costs over the next 10 years and save hospitals $41.1 billion that results from caring for uninsured and underinsured patients.

This law has been passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and defended from Republican repeal.  Obamacare is going into effect nationwide. The question is whether or not Governor Bentley and other Republican governors across the country will let their voters feel the positive effects of Obamacare.

Currently, the federal government pays 69 percent of Alabama’s Medicaid program costs, while the state shoulders the burden of the remaining 31 percent. If the governor would allow Obamacare to work, the federal government would foot the bill for the entire cost of expansion for the next three years, then phase down to cover all but 10 percent by 2020. To provide care for an additional 435,000 people, the state would only have to pay ten cents on the dollar.

The Republican Party claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility, economic growth and job creation. But their actions have shown that they only support those values when the beneficiaries are on Wall Street, not on Main Street. President Obama has offered a fiscally responsible way to create jobs, grow the economy and provide health care for the people of Alabama and the Republicans would rather fight the opportunity than allow Obamacare to work.

We must expand Medicaid. We must put the people first. It’s the right thing to do.

Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.

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