By Rep. Darrio Melton
Alabama, it’s time to expand Medicaid. We must quit playing politics with peoples’ health and wellbeing and do what’s right for the people of this state.
The Democrats have been calling for Medicaid expansion since the President signed the Affordable Care Act. That’s because the Democrats know that Alabama would benefit more than most states by the ACA and Medicaid expansion.
The Democrats know that half of all babies born in Alabama are born on Medicaid. They understand that 95 percent of uninsured Alabamians would qualify for ACA tax credits if we expand Medicaid. They feel the pain of the 642,738 people in Alabama who lack basic health and wellness services, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get those people help.
The Republicans, on the other hand, are calling for smaller government at all costs, and they absolutely refuse to do anything that will let the people see that the Affordable Care Act is good policy. They are more concerned about reelection than about making life a little easier for the average working family in Alabama.
But when you look at the numbers, Medicaid expansion just makes sense. It will relieve stress from the general fund budget, create jobs and bring in additional revenue to the health care industry. If the Republicans are as fiscally conservative and pro-jobs and business as they claim, they would embrace Medicaid expansion too.
By refusing to expand Medicaid, Alabama is missing out on $1.2 billion in Federal funds. The federal government will cover 100 percent of the expansion expenses for the first three years, then 90 percent by 2020. This will take pressure off our General Fund Budget, saving the taxpayers $512 million dollars. Currently Medicaid is $615 million of our General Fund Budget. Medicaid expansion would allow us to use those dollars in the General Fund to buy children textbooks, create smaller class sizes, or renovate our infrastructure.
Medicaid expansion would also create an estimated 12,000 jobs and generate $1.4 billion in economic activity in 2016 alone. An economic stimulus of that size would reach all corners of Alabama’s economy, helping those in the healthcare industry, those who need health care coverage, and those who will indirectly benefit from a more robust Alabama economy.
Medicaid expansion will also make hospitals and the health care industry more financially stable. Medicaid expansion is estimated to save hospitals $41.1 billion dollars. That’s money they can use to upgrade their facilities, hire more staff or provide continuing education.
Anyone who tries to tell you that expanding Medicaid is bad for Alabama isn’t giving you the whole story. The businesses will benefit, the health care industry will benefit, and the State of Alabama will benefit, but most importantly, the people will benefit.
Governor Bentley, it’s time to expand Medicaid. 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.