By Rep. Darrio Melton
Over the weekend, friends and family gathered together to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. More than 200 years ago, we came together to sign a paper declaring our independence from England and affirming that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet across this nation, and certainly across this state, there are working men and women who are unable to achieve these rights–due to a lack of access to affordable healthcare.
A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that took any and all air out of the argument to fight the Affordable Care Act. They made it clear in their ruling: Obamacare is here to stay.
Yet the state of Alabama is continuing to play politics with people’s lives, gambling away billions in federal dollars, dozens of rural hospitals and affordable care for 300,000 Alabamians with one simple refusal to expand Medicaid.
The facts of the matter are clear: Alabama is broke and Medicaid is a huge portion of our budget. Our hospitals are closing and taking with them maternity wards and emergency rooms. We have $14.4 billion available to alleviate these concerns, but we’re refusing to accept it.
Frankly, we have few other options. When we return for a special session in August, we have two choices on the table to fund Medicaid: Our first choice is to raise taxes to cover the rising costs, pulling more money from Alabama pockets. Our second choice is to claim the federal dollars from taxes we are already paying, and will continue to pay, to make our program solvent.
Nobody wants more taxes, but nobody wants more cuts either. Accepting Medicaid expansion is one of the rare political win-win situations, and it would be a tremendous mistake not to grab it.
Let’s face it, Alabama. We’re in a budget crisis and we have to take smart steps to resolve this problem. Often, smart steps require hard decisions. Fortunately, this isn’t one of those times. Expand Medicaid now.
Rep. 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.