The Save Our Selves (SOS) Movement for Justice and Democracy came again to the steps of the Alabama State House in Montgomery on Wednesday, August 24th. According to State Senator Hank Sanders, more than 100 SOS members came from all over the state and held a mock funeral for as many as 1,700 Alabamians who died over the last three years because the Governor has refused to expand Medicaid.
The SOS members came to lift the deceased by demanding expansion of the state’s Medicaid program for more than 250,000 residents of our state who fall in the gap between Medicaid coverage for children and the very poor and working people who are ineligible for subsidized medical insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This group of people, who need health care the most, are being excluded from a benefit of the ACA because the state of Alabama has refused to extend Medicaid coverage to those whose income is below 138 percent of the poverty level income (approximately $17,000 annual income). Most of these low-income people are working at minimum wage or part time jobs and deserve access to the full benefits of the health care system.
The State of Alabama has refused to extend Medicaid for three years since 2013 when this national benefit became available. The Federal government agreed to pay 100% of this new Medicaid program for the first three years. The state share beginning in the fourth year of the program would have increased over the next four years to ten per cent of the cost.
A study in 2013 by medical experts, funded by the Kaiser Family
Foundation showed that in Alabama – 235,084 more people would have been insured for health care if the State of Alabama had expanded Medicaid. The same study showed, based on a complex review of medical conditions in the state that 215 (at the lowest estimate) and 572 (at the highest estimate) would die because of the lack of medical coverage.
“This is an average of one person a day, for over three years – more than 1,000 fellow human beings – who have died because the State of Alabama has not extended Medicaid to the working poor in our state!” said Shelley Fearson, a spokesperson for the SOS.
Another more recent study by the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that in the 24 states that have not expanded Medicaid, 6.7 million residents are projected to remain uninsured in 2016 as a result. These states are foregoing $423.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds from 2013 to 2022, which will lessen economic activity and job growth.
Hospitals in these 24 states are also slated to lose a $167.8 billion (31 percent) boost in Medicaid funding that was originally intended to offset major cuts to their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. According to this study, for Alabama, this means this means 254,000 people who will not be eligible for Medicaid. The state lost $1.5 billion in Federal revenues for 2016 and $14.5 billion for the ten years (2013-2022).
The impact on hospitals, especially small rural hospitals, is great. Hospitals in Alabama, lost $700 million in reimbursement revenues in 2016 and $7 billion for the ten year period 2013 –2022. The cost of expanding Medicaid to the working poor in the same study was calculated at $105 million a year for 2016 and a little over a billion for the ten year period (2013-2022).
These hospitals have no way to replace this revenue and in fact must provide “uncompensated care” in emergency rooms and other facilities to these same people who do not have insurance.
The decision of the state of Alabama not to expand Medicaid means that poor people in other states are receiving Federal funding for their health needs that also should be coming to Alabama. In addition, the cost of insurance to those who have it is higher in Alabama because the cost to hospitals and medical care providers for uncompensated costs are figured into the payment and premium calculations. Expanding Medicaid would be a net plus to the state in tax revenues, jobs and a healthier workforce.
“We in SOS and our affiliate organizations, support the efforts of the Governor and Legislature to meet the immediate $85 million gap in the Medicaid budget. We implore you to consider closing the health care gap that leaves a quarter of a million of our fellow residents without care. Based on the studies cited above, if the Governor had extended Medicaid in 2013 or agrees to extend it now, the state would benefit economically and avoid the current health crisis that results in at least one unnecessary and untimely death of a fellow Alabamian, ever single day!” said Sanders on behalf of SOS.
For more information, contact: Shelley Fearson, at 334.262.0932 and firstname.lastname@example.org or Senator Hank Sanders at email@example.com.