Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week in an attempt to secure passage of the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion Act, a bill that would incentivize states like Alabama to expand Medicaid by restoring 100-percent federal reimbursements for the first three years.
Jones’ push to bring in additional federal dollars for Medicaid in Alabama comes as the nation surpasses four million COVID-19 cases and Americans find themselves increasingly without health care after having lost their jobs and the benefits associated with them.
“Medicaid for 55 years has lifted the health outcomes of people all across this country, and especially in so many states that need it. States like Alabama that are poor states, that are unhealthy states; but we can do better,” Jones said. “A solution of Medicaid would bring billions of dollars into my home state of Alabama along with about a dozen other states. It would create thousands of new jobs. It would held shore up rural hospitals that are facing financial struggles, a condition made worse by this pandemic. It would provide healthcare coverage for between 300 and 400 thousand Alabamians who do not have it now.”
Jones said expanding Medicaid would create $935 million in new tax revenues in the state of Alabama.
Jones has long been a vocal advocate for Medicaid expansion and greater access to quality, affordable health care in Alabama.
In the time since Medicaid expansion has been available and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley made the decision not to take it, more than a dozen hospitals in Alabama have closed their doors, and 88 percent of the remaining facilities are operating at a loss, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.
Medicaid Expansion Advocates claim that iI Alabama expanded Medicaid, an estimated 340,000 Alabamians would gain access to care and the state would receive billions of dollars federal assistance as well as generate an estimated $715 million in new state and local tax revenue.
On Wednesday, Senators Jones and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, requested unanimous consent to pass the SAME Act.
Opponents of Medicaid expansion argue that the State General Fund budget was in no condition to pay the state match required under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and that the state already provides Medicaid benefits to poor children, poor seniors, poor pregnant women, and the disabled. Expanding Medicaid would simply be subsidizing the lifestyles of able bodied adults who could afford Obamacare if they would simply work forty hours a week or correctly report their income in order to qualify for an Obamacare subsidy. They argue that Alabama’s State General Fund budget (SGF) is in much better shape than most of the states who expanded Medicaid, now that their match subsidies have run out and that expanding Medicaid would likely require Alabamians to pay higher taxes once the federal subsidies expired in the SAME Act. Medicaid Expansion was never paid for at the federal level and has required deficit spending since its very inception.
Jones said that Alabama held back and did not expand Medicaid when the Affordable Care Act was passed.
“The main reason they held back was purely political,” Jones said. “The Alabama Legislature, the Alabama Governor refused to legitimize the Affordable Care Act by putting their name on it and hundreds of thousands have suffered because of it.”
Jones is facing a difficult re-election test against former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.