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Report: Medicaid expansion would benefit Alabama’s rural communities

Gabby Dance

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A new report from Protect Our Care, an organization dedicated to achieving health care rights for all Americans, found that Medicaid is important to helping those in Alabama’s rural communities.

The report, released in honor of April being Medicaid Awareness Month, stated that 314,000 Alabamians could gain coverage if the state were to expand Medicaid.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate of Alabama adults living in rural areas has dropped by 7 percent. Currently, 19 percent of Alabamians in rural areas are uninsured.

“Medicaid has played an essential role in providing quality and affordable health care to Alabama’s rural communities, a fact we are trumpeting during Medicaid Awareness Month,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care. “Yet, the Trump administration’s continued war against Medicaid jeopardizes access to rural health care.”

According to Protect Our Care, rural communities tend to have lower rates of employer-sponsored health care coverage than nonrural areas, making Medicaid crucial to these communities.

The report also found that Medicaid expansion helps rural hospitals remain open by cutting uncompensated care costs, which are costs absorbed by the hospital for any treatment or service not paid for by an insurer or patient.

Since the Affordable Care Act, Alabama hospitals’ uncompensated care costs lowered by $112 million. Between 2013 and 2015, costs lowered by about 18 percent.

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Six rural hospitals in Alabama have closed since 2010. This follows a nationwide trend. Eighty eight percent of rural hospitals that have closed in the U.S. since 2010 have been in states that refused to expand Medicaid.

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The closure of rural hospitals is detrimental to low-income residents who may not have the means to travel to a hospital in a non-rural area. These closures also put stress on non-rural hospitals, requiring them to provide care for more patients.

Currently, there are 21 rural hospitals in Alabama at a high financial risk of closing, roughly 50 percent of the state’s rural hospitals.

Additionally, the report determined that Medicaid expansion associated with improved quality of care in rural hospitals.

“President Trump and Republicans who continue to attack Medicaid are putting the health care of millions at risk and are out of step with the vast majority of Americans who support this vital program,” Woodhouse said.

The report criticized several moves by the Trump administration to cut Medicaid funding.

In President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget, he requested a $1.5 trillion cut in Medicaid funding.

The administration is also working to make changes to the program requiring recipients to work a certain number of hours each month, potentially stripping many Americans of care.

 

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