By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – A new report http://familiesusa.org/product/expanding-health-coverage-working-individuals-and-families?src=media released by the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project shows that a majority of those who would benefit from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in our state are working Alabamians.
Entitled “Medicaid Expansion in Alabama: Health Insurance for Working Individuals and Families,” the report outlines the impact Medicaid expansion would have on the working poor of the state. Totaling 342,000, Alabamians who would gain Medicaid under an expansion have incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $27,000 a year for a family of three.
A majority of those nearly half a million currently uninsured are working, and a majority of those who are not are classified as “not in the workforce,” a category including people with disabilities, students, stay-at-home parents, and retired workers. The remaining are the state’s unemployed, who also fall in a so-called “coverage gap,” a deficit experienced by those with an income level too high to receive Medicaid under non-expanded guidelines and too low to receive federal health care subsidies in the online marketplace.
As the Arise report explains, that coverage gap – even for those with small children – is vast: families of three who make between $3,560 and $27,210 a year have no opportunity for financial help in acquiring health care through either the exchange or Alabama’s Medicaid program without an expansion, and the situation for working individuals is even worse.
“Too many hard-working Alabamians are caught in the coverage gap,” ACPP policy director Jim Carnes said. “These are the people all around us who keep things going. Without coverage, they often struggle to work while health problems sap their productivity, add stress to their households, and get worse without timely care. Imagine what a difference regular health care could make for families’ lives, for our workforce and for our economy.”
The report, which also included the contributions of Families USA, a health care consumer group, also took aim at Governor Bentley’s refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid roles, pointing to his stated commitment to workforce development and training:
“The governor has the right idea. However, perhaps no action represents a smarter investment in Alabama’s workforce that ensuring that its workers are prospering ans healthy. Accepting the federal funds would give hundreds of thousands of working Alabamians access to affordable health insurance. That will create a healthier, more productive workforce that would benefit Alabama’s employers.”
As broken down by the report, below are the numbers of Alabamians in each occupation that would gain access to affordable health care if Medicaid were expanded:
-26,000 in food service
-26,000 in construction
-25,000 in retail
-20,000 in cleaning and maintenance
-17,000 in production, including butchers, laundry workers, and tailors
-16,000 in office and administrative support
-15,000 in transportation
-8,000 in personal care
-7,000 in installation or repair
-25,000 in a variety of other jobs
Some GOP leaders in the state legislature – like House Budget Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark – have expressed a willingness to consider the expansion of Medicaid, an option since dismissed by the Governor as an impossibility.
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of 145 congregations and organizations that promote public policies to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.