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Opinion | Patient advocacy groups call on governor to close the coverage gap

Recent studies show nearly half of Alabama workers do not get employer-sponsored health insurance.

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This piece is by advocates from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.

Here’s the startling reality: in Alabama, a couple with one child earning $5,000 a year would make too much to be eligible for Medicaid.

We represent the patients, families and advocates served by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  We advocate of behalf of people facing serious and often life-threatening medical conditions. We know about the healthcare plight of patients and workers in Alabama because we see it every day.

We also stand up for hard-working Alabamians who want to stay healthy, like the construction worker with high blood pressure who can’t afford medication, the hairstylist with a family history of breast cancer who wants a screening mammogram and the truck driver who previously smoked and knows he should have his lungs checked. These Alabamians deserve to take care of themselves but often they fall into the coverage gap where they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance.

For our neighbors with risk factors for cardiovascular disease or recovering from a heart attack or stroke, or those who are battling cancer, access to affordable and adequate health insurance is a matter of life and death. By closing the coverage gap, hundreds of thousands of working families, veterans, and small business owners would be able to have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare and get the medications and treatments they need to stay healthy.

In fact, recent studies show nearly half of Alabama workers do not get employer-sponsored health insurance. On behalf of these patients and hard-working Alabamians, we want to see a solution to close the coverage gap and take action to address the healthcare crisis in Alabama.

When workers can’t stay healthy, they leave the workforce, which puts a strain on their families as well as on businesses. And it strains the healthcare system when uninsured patients only have access to emergency care. We have seen rural hospitals close, leaving people vulnerable to more health challenges in those areas. The resistance to closing the coverage gap in Alabama is costing us all. Patients have worse outcomes that still require care and our federal tax dollars currently fund coverage in other states without any of it benefitting Alabama.

As we head into this year’s legislative session, it is more important than ever for our state’s leaders to take Alabama’s health crisis seriously. Gov. Ivey and Alabama legislators, we’re calling on you to expand healthcare access in Alabama and close the coverage gap as soon as possible. It’s time to shift from talking to action. We need to implement solutions to solve the health system and workforce problems that impact Alabamians every day. Give us and all our friends and neighbors a fighting chance to get healthy, stay healthy and continue working.

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Alabama advocates from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.

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