By Rep. Darrio Melton
The 2014 elections were bad. Not just bad because Democrats lost, but bad because the hyper-partisan attacks reached a new low. Any candidate who suggested finding a method to bring affordable, accessible health care to more Alabamians was attacked as a “Washington liberal who supports expanding Obamacare.”
I have been a strong supporter of expanding Medicaid–maybe one of the most vocal supporters in the Alabama Legislature. Because the state is facing a $700 million budget hole, the federal dollars will help cushion that shortfall. Because of the rural hospitals closing across the state, expansion will ensure all Alabamians have access to local care. Because uninsured Alabamians impact all of us in the community, increased coverage rates will cause the cost of care to drop for everyone.
But Governor Bentley and other Republicans have been opposed to outright Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. I think some of them have reasonable, well-thought out reasons for this position. I think others are having a knee-jerk reaction to the President. Either way, we can’t ignore the staggering statistic that 700 Alabamians will die each year that we avoid the problem.
This is why I’m exceptionally proud that Governor Bentley is working with legislators and medical professionals to find a compromise that will bring health care to more working Alabamians than ever before.
According to Governor Bentley’s comments last week, he is working with federal agencies to create a system of expansion in Alabama that will allow the state to set parameters on the program. Bentley’s plan will still offer coverage to an additional 300,000 Alabamians, capturing the same benefit as expansion under ACA.
The expansion option that the Governor is offering isn’t exactly what the Democrats want, and it isn’t exactly what the Republicans want. Both sides are having to take steps towards the middle to find a solution with which we can all be happy.
At the end of the day, this isn’t about the Republican plan or the Democratic plan. It’s not about talking points or political rhetoric, winning and losing, us and them. It’s about the people who need government to work. It’s about people who are choosing between food and prescriptions, driving two hours to deliver a baby, and wondering if they can afford a life-saving procedure.
This is about the people of Alabama who need their leaders to come together and find solutions that work.
I’m proud that Governor Bentley is taking bold steps towards a plan that will work for everyone. I’m confident that he understands the dire implications of policy on working Alabamians, and that he is working to solve the monumental problems that we face as a state–I’m looking forward to working with him to bring health care to hard-working men and women across the state.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.