By The Alabama’s BEST Coalition
On Tuesday, The Governor focused a major part of his State of the State address on Medicaid and his concerns about expanding the program. While we adamantly disagree with the Governor’s decision not to expand Medicaid, we did find several areas on which we fully agree. In fact, several of his statements actually provide a strong argument in favor of developing a state-based solution to increase coverage for low-income working Alabamians.
First, “The money the federal government is spending with wild abandon is not federal dollars – those are your dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars.” – The Governor is correct. There are 18 new taxes that we are already paying to fund Medicaid expansion. But, currently, because Alabama has turned down the federal funding, and we are leaving hundreds of millions of our own taxpayer dollars on the table. That money will not be returned to us, nor will we get a tax break. What we are asking the Governor to do is explore an Alabama-driven solution to expand the Medicaid program and return our tax dollars to our state.
“Do we have a problem with accessible health care in this country? Yes we do.” – We agree, we do have a problem with access to care. However, a refusal to explore a state-based option to the Medicaid challenge will only make this problem worse. Providers across the state are already being forced to cut services, reduce staff and, in some places, close their doors. We already see this happening. Most recently, on January 9, Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital in Demopolis announced that it will close its labor and delivery unit and make staff layoffs to survive cuts in federal and state funding. This means that all pregnant women in that area, even those with Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage, will have to travel at least 50 miles for obstetric care. Once a community loses critical care providers, it loses access to health care services for ALL residents, not just those covered by Medicaid.
Gov. Bentley stressed the need for job growth, and we agree. Alabama has been successful investing tax dollars to recruit and support industry in our state. For example, we invested $253 million in incentives and Alabama tax dollars in Hyundai, which brought 2,000 jobs to Alabama. Expanding our Medicaid program is a way to take advantage of federal funds to invest additional resources not only to provide coverage, but also to boost our state’s economy. A lack of basic health care services in a community makes it less attractive when a company is looking for a place to create new jobs and operations. However, the billions of dollars that could come to Alabama each year will create new jobs. A recent University of Alabama study estimated that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000 new jobs across Alabama’s economy in the first 6 years.
Gov. Bentley said that Medicaid is “a system that by our own admission is absolutely broken and flawed.” We agreed, and that is why stakeholders supported reform legislation last year to create the Regional Care Organization model, which the Governor praised in his speech.
Through this reform, we are diligently working to restructure the current Medicaid program, a huge undertaking for our state. As we are making these historic changes, we cannot afford to pass up on this huge opportunity that could benefit thousands of our citizens. We urge the Governor to reconsider his decision and do what’s best for all Alabamians.
For more information, please visit www.alabamasbest.org.
The Alabama’s BEST Coalition—AARP Alabama, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc., Alabama Arise, Alabama Chapter/ American Academy of Pediatrics, Alabama Chapter/National MS Society, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, Alabama Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Alabama Hospital Association, Alabama Primary Health Care Association, Alabama Rural Health Association, American Association of University Women of Alabama, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, ASONA (AIDS Service Organizations in Alabama), Children First Foundation, Inc., Disabilities Leadership Coalition of Alabama, Family Voices of Alabama, Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center, Jefferson County Children’s Policy Cooperative, NAMI Alabama.