SOS continues protests to demand Medicaid Expansion for Alabama

Montgomery, AL – Peaceful protestors – many in wheelchairs and walkers – gathered at the state Capitol to demand Medicaid expansion and were met by at least 32 armed law enforcement officers, not counting those in Montgomery City Police vehicles. The nearly three dozen armed police remained standing while speakers, including several young activists, continued to plea for Medicaid expansion in Alabama
Attorney and Civil Rights Activist Faya Toure said: “It is regretful that such a scene is taking place week after week at SOS events to save lives in a city with a Black Mayor and a Black police chief. Montgomery is known for its historic civil disobedience, which led to Montgomery’s having its first ever Black Mayor elected last year.”
Those present included leaders of SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, and other human rights and civil rights groups. They met at the historic King Memorial Dexter Avenue Baptist Church at 11:30 a.m. and marched up the street to the Alabama State Capitol facing a sea of armed city police officers for a noon press conference to continue to push for Medicaid expansion. Individuals with physical limitations participated in the march and the press conference and stressed the critical need to expand Medicaid to save lives, now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young leaders from across Alabama also participated in today’s events at the Church and the Capitol, including two who were previously arrested and jailed for civil disobedience misdemeanors or “good trouble” as Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed likes to quote the late Congressman John Lewis.
SOS and LGBTQ leader Judson Garner called out state leaders for finding money to build private mega prisons while refusing to move to save lives and save hospitals with Medicaid expansion. “We will be paying for these private prisons long after the Governor and other elected leaders have died. They can find billions to warehouse Alabamians in private facilities, but they can’t find a pittance to save lives, build our economy and improve every corner of our state with Medicaid expansion. This is wrong, and all young Alabamians – and all Alabamians – should be outraged.”
Kumasi Amin with Black Lives Matter and SOS said: “This movement consists of people of all ages, and we will not stop until Medicaid is expanded. We will continue to stand side by side, recognizing that the issues that affect our elders also affect us intergenerationally. Just as we watch our Black brothers and sisters being murdered at the hands and knees of law enforcement across this country, we also see people needlessly dying and suffering in Alabama because of the failure to expand Medicaid and the lack of health coverage and healthcare. I myself will lose my health coverage when I turn 26 this year. And Black people are dying throughout this city, state and nation because of policies at all levels of government.”
Alabama remains one of only 12 states in America that has taken no action to expand Medicaid. Because of the state’s ongoing failure to act, thousands of Alabamians have needlessly died in Alabama since Medicaid expansion was made available to all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. “This is unforgivable,” said Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan.
Travis Jackson with Black Lives Matter and SOS who is also a veteran of the Iraqi War said: “How can the State of Alabama find billions of dollars for private prisons and yet can’t find a penny to expand Medicaid? How can leaders of good faith justify such actions? There is no justification, and Alabama must expand Medicaid now.”
SOS leaders John Zippert and Johnny Ford, who have been a part of the movement to expand Medicaid from day one, also made remarks as well as brought individuals with physical limitations to participate in today’s events. Eutaw resident Gus Richardson urged the state, “Expand Medicaid NOW!”
Zippert said, “More than 340,000 Alabamians fall in the gap between current Medicaid eligibility and ability to qualify for subsidized health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. These uninsured Alabamians are placing financial pressure on all hospitals and causing many smaller rural hospitals to close. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama will save 700 lives a year of people dying because they lack health insurance coverage. With the coronavirus, many more people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and others, which go untreated because they lack insurance, are suffering higher death rates from the pandemic.”
Ford said, “We welcome persons directly affected by the lack of Medicaid Expansion in the State of Alabama, to join us in our SOS weekly protests to urge Governor Ivey to do the right thing. We want more people directly impacted by the lack of health insurance in Alabama to testify at our SOS rallies and press conferences to put more pressure on the Governor.”
Annie Pearl Avery who was on the bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday in 1965 said: “I have been part of the Civil Rights Movement for six decades. From Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma to Atlanta to Jackson to D.C. and more, I have been on the front lines fighting for civil and human rights. Our fights directly led to Black mayors and other Black elected officials as well as Black police officers, including the nearly three dozen lined up in front of us now. I have also been fighting for Medicaid expansion from the beginning, and I’ll be here fighting for it until Alabama leaders do the right thing and save lives instead of taking lives.”
Persons interested in joining or supporting the SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy may contact SOS through the Internet and Facebook. Support can also be sent to the SOS Survival Fund, 838 South Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone 205-262-9032.

Alabama Hospital Association: Two new studies support Medicaid Expansion

By Amy Yurkanin | ayurkanin@al.com

The Alabama Hospital Association released two reports last week laying out almost $3 billion in financial benefits for expanding Medicaid – a step state leaders have declined to consider since the Affordable Care Act ( also known as Obamacare) passed in 2010.
Leaders of the hospital association held a press conference at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Friday morning to tout the findings. The organization has been one of the strongest supporters of Medicaid expansion in Alabama, claiming the move would benefit hospitals and patients.
David Becker, a professor in the UAB School of Public Health, created similar reports in 2012 and 2016 – when federal funds covered all the costs of expanding Medicaid to low-income adults. The match is down to 93 percent this year and will drop to 90 percent in 2020, where it will remain.
Owen Bailey, CEO of USA Health, said the deal still makes sense for Alabama.
“It’s obvious that by expanding Medicaid, the state would have a huge return on investment,” Bailey said. “For every one dollar the state provides, we will get nine dollars to match it.”
Becker’s study found that implementing Medicaid expansion now would be costlier for the state than it would have been in 2014 because of the loss of federal matching dollars and the increased cost from low-income patients who purchase insurance through the exchange. Bailey said 12 hospitals have closed in Alabama in the last eight years.
“The state did miss out on the deal of the century,” Becker said. “I don’t have a time machine. All we can do is look forward. The case for expansion remains very strong.”
Medicaid expansion is one part of Obamacare, which also created regulations on health insurance and subsidies to purchase private insurance. Alabama is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Residents of Utah, Nebraska and Idaho recently voted to expand Medicaid in statewide referenda.
Alabama’s lack of action has kept millions in federal dollars out of the state that could help support rural hospitals that often care for the sick and uninsured, said Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association.
“Hospitals and healthcare are every bit as important for infrastructure as roads are,” Williamson said. “Otherwise they are building roads to communities that are dying because their hospital has closed.”If Alabama expanded Medicaid, the program would grow to cover adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, the program only covers caregivers of people on Medicaid who earn less than 20 percent of the poverty level. The change in Alabama would add more than 300,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, according to the study.
That expansion would cost Alabama $227 million in 2020, according to Becker’s calculations. The state would receive nearly $2 billion in funds from the federal government that year.
The other study, by consulting company Manatt, said the state could pay up to $216 million in additional costs and get more than $2 billion from federal sources. The state would save additional money in other areas, including medical care for prisoners, Williamson said.
The Alabama Hospital Association has submitted similar reports in 2012 and 2016. Williams said they are hopeful legislators will give expansion serious consideration this year. He said unsuccessful votes to repeal Obamacare and midterm successes by Democrats running on healthcare show the law has staying power.
“For a lot of people, there was a belief that Obamacare was going to disappear,” Williamson said. “The last election has pretty much taken repeal and replace off the table. The number of states, including some very Republican states have gone to expansion and they are seeing the benefits. Our hope is that the reality that this is going to be here, that it’s not going away, will become clear to Alabama lawmakers.”