By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday passed a resolution calling for Gov. Kay Ivey to expand the state’s Medicaid program.
“We have seen — and continue to see — the enormous negative impact not expanding Medicaid has already had on our state,” said Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham. “It’s time to stop the bleeding. It’s time to shore up our rural hospitals and rural healthcare providers instead of contributing to the further decimation of these communities and it’s time to strengthen this program which is so vital to so many of our most vulnerable citizens – from young children to seniors.”
Democrats in the state have been calling for Medicaid expansion since former President Obama’s signature health care law went into effect, offering federal dollars for states to insure more low-income residents. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama could have covered an extra 235,000 uninsured, low-income people at a lower state matching rate than unusual.
The Alabama Hospital Association has also pointed to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as the reason why dozens of hospitals across the state have closed or are planning to close.
Democrats said Wednesday they are focused on affordable health care.
They called for a thorough review of any and all state-funded mental health services to ensure that funding is spent wisely.
“These struggles touch every part of our citizenry students, to new mothers to returning veterans,” said Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham. “Failure to meet that commitment with effective programs and adequate funding levels has already led to increased costs in emergency care and incarceration, not to mention the human cost in countless lives devastated and families disrupted.”
Wednesday was also Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and Democrats said the state should do more to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, which heavily affects black people. Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would give the Health Department the authority to work with local counties on pilot needle exchange programs.
“Raising awareness and encouraging testing is critical to identify those living with HIV, connect them with medical care and limit the damage done by this disease, said Rep. Hall, of Huntsville. “We can and should also take action to address known causes of the spread of this disease by supporting legislation like SB169.”