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Web series pushing for Medicaid expansion spotlights uninsured Alabamians

A coalition of Medicaid expansion advocates from eight Southern states launched an online storytelling series on Thursday to share the stories of people who say they’ve been harmed by those states’ denials of expanded access.

The Cover Alabama Coalition is a member of Southerners for Medicaid Expansion, which was formed by advocates in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The organization is hosting “Southern Storyteller Spotlight” events online each Thursday through Oct. 1.

The first episode featured a preview of the documentary short On the Edge: Health Care in Alabama” by filmmaker Ky Dickens, which shows the challenges of Alabamians living without health care.

Among the people it profiles are an Autaugaville doctor, Lee Carter, and his patient, Santana Hall, a Head Start teacher from Prattville. Hall was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. She can’t afford insurance on her $16,000 salary, but the amount is too high to qualify for Medicaid.

A family of three in Alabama must make less than $350 a month to qualify. Adults living on low incomes don’t qualify unless they are disabled, pregnant or the parent of a minor.

In the episode, Carter explains that he doesn’t refuse care to patients like Hall. He has accepted payments like a case of deer meat from a patient who couldn’t pay their bill. People stuck in that gap don’t get the preventative care that Carter said he should be providing to keep them from getting sick.

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“Medicaid expansion would be a good thing for everybody,” he said. “As far as for here, for Autaugaville, for small towns across Alabama, it would change a lot of things. It would allow more people to go to the doctor. It would allow more people to get the medicines that they need. It would allow people in places like mine to flourish and take care of all those people.”

Another spotlight featured Adrea Jones, a dance studio owner in Centre. Her grandmother had breast cancer, but Jones has never had a mammogram because she can’t afford insurance.

“I just have to pray, please don’t let me be sick,” she said.

The series will culminate in simultaneous candlelight vigils across the region for people suffering from denial to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There has never been a more urgent time for Southerners to unite and fight for health coverage,” said Jane Adams, campaign director for the Cover Alabama Coalition. “Our region’s legacy of poverty and racial injustice only compounds the threat of COVID-19. With 56 rural hospital closures since 2014 and 7.5 million people who are uninsured, these eight states have been sliding backward for too long. It’s time to follow the lead of Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana and move forward with expanding Medicaid.”

Ginny Campbell, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which sponsored the Dickens film, said that Medicaid’s ability to provide preventative care is especially important to Southern states because of their high cancer rates.

“Expanding Medicaid would promote earlier cancer detection, leading to fewer deaths and improved health outcomes for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Campbell said. 

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Each episode will air on Facebook Live.

Micah Danney is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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