I have emphasized health care in this issue because of its extreme importance in Alabama, as it is in every state. Special attention has also been given to Alabama’s Medicaid Program. The new federal healthcare law provides full federal funding to cover newly eligible Medicaid recipients for three years, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. In 2017, states will pick up a small share that grows to a maximum of 10% for 2020 and after. Delaying the decision to expand Medicaid means failing to take advantage of maximum federal funding. It puzzles me that Alabama would walk away from billions of federal dollars that could revitalize our health care system and our state’s economy.
Medicaid expansion in Alabama would likely bring health coverage to 300,000 new enrollees, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health. Analysis of Census data further reveals that nearly 60% of Alabama’s uninsured adults who fall within the new income limits are workers. An expanded Medicaid would provide:
• Health coverage for hardworking families who can’t afford private coverage;
• Access to regular care/ preventive checkups;
• Earlier detection and treatment;
• Less dependence on costly emergency care;
• Regular OB/GYN visits without referral; and
• Coverage for 27,000 low-income uninsured Alabama veterans.
Many, including this writer, believe Medicaid expansion will mean a healthier Alabama. The whole state will benefit as access to regular care improves the health of working families and more of our sickest residents. Most parents want to take responsibility for their health and that of their children. Healthier families mean better outcomes at school, on the job and at home. A more productive workforce means a growing state economy, more jobs and a better future for our state.
A great deal has been written in the media, both good and bad, about the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act passed by Congress. I find that many folks have no concept of what the new law really does. Today in Alabama, nearly 750,000 Alabamians lack health insurance. Thousands of those persons are unemployed workers who lost their coverage when they lost their jobs. Now that the economy is improving many people are discovering that the “pre-existing condition” such as asthma or diabetes stands in their way of getting back into health coverage. Fortunately, because of the new law, that will not be the case for very much longer.
Less than a year from now, in January 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny a person coverage because he or she already had a health problem. This is just one of the many protections guaranteed by the new law. Hopefully Alabama will take full advantage of the new law. Governor Robert Bentley’s Medicaid Advisory Commission has offered what appears to be the right plan for reform of Medicaid. Restructuring Medicaid to focus on primary and preventive care will set the stage for expansion to cover 300,000 uninsured Alabamians. But Alabama must accept the offer to expand Medicaid if our state is to get the benefits provided. I am still hopeful that Gov. Bentley will change his mind and do what I believe is the right thing for Alabama. He is a good man and I don’t question his motives on the Medicaid expansion issue. For those reasons, I believe the Governor will ultimately wind up on the right side of this issue.
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