By Rep. Darrio Melton
When the governor met with newly-elected legislators last month, he called on us to offer leadership to do the right thing for the state of Alabama. After all, we’re staring down the barrel at some pretty tough issues in the next four years–we’re going to have to make some tough decisions that may not always be politically expedient.
Prison over crowding, an unassailable budget shortfall and rising public distrust of elected officials will add an extra dimension of complexity to every issue brought to the table during this legislative session.
One of these issues is the growing need to address health care shortfalls within our state. We’ve all heard the data about hospital closings, people dying due to lack of care, the number of working men and women who fall into the coverage gap–I don’t need to repeat it.
But I will repeat this: Governor, it’s time to expand Medicaid in the state of Alabama.
Many Republican governors across the country are taking steps towards expansion. Governor Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) told the papers that Medicaid expansion is “morally and fiscally the right thing to do.” Governor Matt Mead (R-Wyo.) agrees. Alaska, Indiana, Montana, Utah and Virginia are also discussing expansion, which would add them to the list of 27 states that have already accepted the program.
We’re on the short list of states who are still saying “no” to federal money that will keep our hospitals open and provide care for our working men and women.
Clearly this isn’t about federal overreach, Governor, because we’ve had no issue with accepting money for a list of programs, including education and infrastructure development.
Clearly this isn’t about keeping the Conservative base happy for reelection, because you said yourself that you would likely never run for office again.
Clearly this isn’t about reforming Medicaid, because you’ve had four years with a supermajority to make all the changes to the program–and we’ve drastically reformed the program.
Clearly this isn’t about the Christian thing to do, because Jesus healed the sick and cured the lame and never once asked for a Blue Cross card.
So what gives, Governor?
We have enough issues to face in the upcoming session without making this more difficult for ourselves. It’s time to expand Medicaid–it’s time to take this burden off the shoulders of the Alabama legislature and, most importantly, off the backs of hard working Alabamians.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010. He currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.