Voting rights coalition meets in Shelby County on 8th anniversary of Shelby vs Holder decision to call for an end to voter suppression

A coalition of Alabama voting rights advocates held a press conference in front of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana,  Alabama to decry the lack of progress on voting rights on the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County vs. Holder case. The Supreme Court’s decision gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance by the U. S. Department of Justice of changes in voting laws, rules and regulations by state and local jurisdictions in the Southern statesThis decision unleashed a torrent of laws and regulations which made it more difficult for Black, Brown, poor and young people to vote around our nation. Benard Simelton, State President of the NAACP said, “We are here today in Shelby County on the 8th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s putting a knife in the back of the VRA, to call for unfettered access to the polls for all people and an end to voter suppression which is designed to depress the votes of Black, Brown and other disadvantaged people. We are not sitting back. We are actively working to fight voter suppression in all of its ways. “Laws like the one passed in Georgia to prohibit people from giving snacks and water to people on line to vote. The curbs on drop-boxes and curbside voting must be changed. The changes that affect how votes are counted. The purging of voters must all be changed,” said Simelton. Jessica Barker, Coordinator of Lift Our Vote from Huntsville, said, “We are demanding a change to end voter suppression and support our voting rights. We are here today to support the national efforts to support voting rights by passing HR 1 and S1 – The For the People Act and HR-4 The John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, in the United States Congress.” Pastor McMillan of Shelby County, said, “We are here today to try to rescue democracy for all people in Alabama and the nation. Access to the vote is not just reserved for the rich and powerful but for all of us.” Dr. Adia Winfrey of Transform Alabama spoke on her efforts to marshal the power of hip-hop culture to involve young people in the fight for voting rights and civil rights. John Zippert, SaveOurselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy linked the struggle for voting rights with other social change campaigns that SOS is working on including Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, Economic Justice and Worker’s Rights. Rachel Knowles, a white staff member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was a native of Shelby County, grew up there and went to public schools, however, “Now I am ashamed and disappointed to be from a place that is opposed to voting rights for all people.” Rev. Carolyn Foster of the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign said, “Voting rights is a moral and systemic justice issue. We are concerned with restrictive voter ID laws, redistricting problems and the myth of voter fraud. The only way to change things and get what you want is to organize to take it.” After the Courthouse Rally, the groups moved to Orr Park in Montevalo, Alabama and held a ‘voting rights fair” with booths to register people, including the previously incarcerated, get vaccine for the coronavirus, music, food, and fellowship.

Excerpts from 7 strong speeches at April 20: SOS rally for Medicaid Expansion SOS to hold planning meeting Saturday in Selma

L TO R: Zack Carter; Bill Harrison; Gus Townes; Atty/Activist Faya Sanders; Former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford; Bullock County Commissioner John McGowan; Chair of Greene County Alabama Health System John Zippert; Former Slocumb Mayor and Executive Director of Alabama Conference of Black Mayors, Vickie Moore; Gail Townes. (photo 4-20-21 by Jacque Chandler – PICTURETHISMAGAZINE.COM)

 

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy is holding a planning meeting in Selma on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at the Center for Non-Violence, Truth and Reconciliation, 8 Mulberry Road, Selma, AL 36703. The meeting which starts at 10:00 AM is an effort to pull together organizations from around the state to plan for the upcoming crucial elections in 2022 for statewide offices. SOS hopes to develop a strategy similar to the successful work in the neighboring state of Georgia for voter registration, education, combating voter suppression and positively influencing the redistricting process in the state. All SOS member organizations and other organizations who plan to work on the upcoming 2022 elections are invited. As part of this meeting, SOS plans an assessment of its membership and efforts to attract more participation and support. This includes an evaluation of the SOS agenda of fighting voter suppression, advocacy for Medicaid Expansion, criminal justice reform and fighting new prisons, worker’s rights, and other issues of concern to Black, Brown and poor people in Alabama. SOS will also discuss plans to participate in a statewide meeting in Shelby County, Alabama on Friday, June 25, 2021, the eight anniversary of the Shelby vs. Holder Supreme Court decision, which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The program for the day will be to advocate for support of Congressional action on HR 1 -For the People Act and HR-4 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to counteract the national voter suppression efforts. SOS has also developed a youtube video, entitled “SOS to AL Gov: START Medicaid Expansion & STOP Police Escort of Strikebreakers at Union Coal mines”, which has excerpts of seven strong speeches at the SOS rally on April 20, 2021, in front of the Alabama State House in Montgomery. SOS has demonstrated on a regular basis for a year, at least once a month, sometimes every other week, to urge Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature to adopt Medicaid expansion. The SOS video includes the following statements.

• Emcee: Johnny Ford, Former Mayor – and First Black Mayor – of Tuskegee, Co-Chair of SOS Health Committee: ‘We are here for the purpose of sending a clear message to Governor Kay Ivey, Medicaid Must Be Expanded in Alabama Now! People are dying more so than ever before because of the Covid 19 Pandemic …those 300,000 plus who now do not now have health care…if they had Medicaid, they would have insurance and perhaps their lives would be saved. There is absolutely no excuse, no reason to not expand Medicaid because the funds are now available!

• 1st Speaker, John Zippert, Co-Chair of SOS Health Committee: “ I am also Chair of the Greene County Alabama Health System where 40% of those served have no health insurance!…The State of Alabama is eligible to receive $940 million in incentive payments over two years, if it expands Medicaid to serve people making up to 138% of poverty wages, under provisions of the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and signed by President Biden on March 11. (See also Greene County Democrat April, 22, 2021 – one of many John Zippert’s detailed articles analyzing Medicaid Expansion )

• 2nd Speaker, Alabama Bullock County Commissioner John McGowan: ” I can’t see how any elected official in the State of Alabama wouldn’t care about the health and welfare of Alabama ! It’s been stated the money is available ! It is a simple solution …lives are the most important thing, and our economy will benefit. Gov. Ivey let’s get this bill passed.!

• 3rd Speaker, Vickie Moore, Executive Director of Alabama Conference of Black Mayors: ‘Caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human! So today we are asking Gov Ivey to Expand Medicaid and improve the lives of 300,000 who are on low income…13 hospitals have closed in the last 8 years in Alabama, they spend 500 million a year for their uninsured patients, without Medicaid Expansion more hospitals will close.’

• 4th Speaker, Civil Rights Atty Activist Faya Rose Sanders, Chair of SOS Direct Action Committee: ‘I want to use this opportunity to thank our people in elected positions because we have so many people in elected positions who do not use their positions to fight for the people. And I want to thank each and every one of you…And a part of that bill that was just passed, 800,000 more people are now receiving insurance. And if a president can do it in Washington, there’s no reason why a governor in Alabama can’t do it.’

• 5th Speaker, Zack Carter, Former President of Shipbuilders Local 18 in Mobile, and Co-Chair of SOS Justice Committee: ‘Last night John Zippert and I were at a rally for 1100 Alabama Coal Miners who are on strike. [See: https://umwa.org/support-umwa-miners-on-strike-at-warrior-met/ — with riveting videos of the mineworkers and family showing their struggle for justice in their workplace, is a struggle for all of us ! ].

The President of the Alabama AFL- CIO and the National President of the United Mine Workers of America UMWA assured us of their support for Medicaid Expansion. And this is only natural, in the 1960’s Labor support was key for Medicare and Medicaid, in the 1930’s when Labor allied with progressives, their crowning social justice jewel was Social Security…and in the 1930’s. John L Lewis, out of the UMWA, was a key founder of the CIO — the first union on a national scale to organize all workers into one union — black, white, men, women, skilled, and unskilled. And Lewis was already organizing a multi-racial UMWA in Alabama in the 1920’s… Gov Ivey, you claimed you can’t find the money for Medicaid Expansion, but you sure didn’t look long to find the money to pay AL State troopers to escort strikebreakers into the UMWA mines, strikebreakers in yellow school buses, getting paid 12 bucks and hour with no training in the deepest and most dangerous mines in the US.’ • 6th Speaker, Bill Harrison, active SOS member for many years, 1970’s Civil Rights leader in Choctaw County; There are many reasons why the Governor should sign Medicaid Expansion: 8 to 10 counties in Alabama that do not even have a hospital; it would create jobs; the infant mortality rate would go down…And a lot of people would be more healthy. About a year ago, my niece [audience: “ Tell the Story!”] in Butler, Alabama, which they do not have a hospital, they say there is one but there is not one there. And when my niece got the virus, she had to go to Meridian, Mississippi — many of these hospitals do not have the resources and equipment to treat people properly – they put my niece on a ventilator on Monday and she died on Tuesday. If you have difficulty downloading the youtube video contact: zcarter8@gmail.com. For more information about joining and supporting SOS, contact them at: 838 South Court Street, Montgomery, AL 36104; or call 205/262-0932.

 

Medicaid Expansion, COVID death rates and John Merrill’s racist tweets SOS joins in protests with other organizations at the Alabama State Capitol

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) has been protesting at the State Capitol in Montgomery, every other week, since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic began in Alabama.
The focus of the SOS demonstrations has been to persuade Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 or more people, caught in the gap between Medicaid eligibility and coverage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. The expansion would assist people whose family income was up to 138% of the poverty level, with Federally subsidized health insurance coverage.
SOS also highlighted the issue of the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black and Brown communities, especially the Alabama Black Belt; high coronavirus rates in Alabama’s jails and prisons; and the overall inequities of the treatment of Black, Brown and poor people by the health care system.
During most of October and into November, SOS members suspended protests to concentrate on the General Election on November 3 in local communities. SOS is also working to help in the Georgia Senatorial races with funds, phone banking and possible trips to assist people with canvassing and poll watching.
In the last few weeks SOS has joined with other organizations in Alabama to continue protests for issues related to its general mission and objectives. On September 10, 2020, SOS sponsored a march and demonstration from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, up to the Capitol Steps in Montgomery, with six people in wheelchairs and several more on walkers from around the state.
September 22, 2020, SOS joined with the Poor Peoples Campaign of Alabama in a demonstration on the steps of the State Capitol to take a pledge to join the “National Non-violent Army for Medicaid Expansion”. The Alabama protestors joined those in Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, where people are coming together in “Medicaid Marches” to demand their right to health and healthcare.
These Medicaid Marches are being led by the uninsured and underinsured, unhoused people, low-wage, essential and undocumented workers, healthcare workers, clergy, and others. The marches are the first coordinated nationwide push of the Nonviolent Medicaid Army, a vehicle to build the power of poor and dispossessed people, led by those on or excluded from Medicaid, which remains the only public healthcare option for the 140 million poor and low-income people in the country. This emerging new force is modeled after what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned as a “multi-racial, intergenerational, nonviolent army of the poor.”
In 2018, there were 87 million people who were uninsured or underinsured. This year, close to 12 million people have already lost their employer-sponsored healthcare. Millions fall into a coverage gap where private insurance is too expensive but their income is above the Medicaid cutoff.
Approximately 22,000-27,000 die every year from being uninsured. And state legislatures around the country are making it clear that they will seek to fill the budget holes created by the pandemic-triggered global economic crisis by cutting life-saving public programs like Medicaid.
In Alabama, 500 to 700 people a year are dying because Governor Ivey has been unwilling to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA. This prompted John Zippert, SOS leader and Chair of the Greene County Health System Board to charge that “Gov. Ivey is a mass murderer for not expanding Medicaid.”
Rev. Liz Theoharis, Co-Chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign says, “Fully funding Medicaid, and expanding it to all U.S. residents, is not beyond our means. Just one military contract could cover the cost of expanding Medicaid in 14 states. Although we are constantly sold the lie of scarcity, we have the money to fully fund universal single-payer healthcare, if only our government wanted to.”
On this Monday, November 23, SOS joined with the Poor Peoples Campaign in a caravan to surround the State Capitol in Montgomery to memorialize the more than 250,000 people nationally, who have died from COVID-19. Of the dead, 3,500 are Alabamians.
On Tuesday, November 24, members of SOS joined with Project Say Something (PSS) which is committed to confronting racial injustice in Alabama, demanding accountability from the Alabama Secretary of State. In recent weeks, Mr. John Merrill has used his personal Twitter account – where he describes himself as “Representing the People of Alabama as their 53rd Secretary of State” – to retweet and promote hate speech and harsh language designed to divide and intimidate Alabamians.
As community voices and trusted leaders, PSS believes it imperative to hold elected officials accountable for their public behavior and use of racist, anti-Black rhetoric in public forums. John Merrill’s actions reflect poorly on the office he holds and disrespects the vast majority of constituents he has been entrusted to serve. SOS worked with PSS to demonstrate on the steps of the Capitol.
For more information contact SOS through its website and Facebook pages as well as contacting ANSC at 838 South Court Street in Montgomery; phone 205/262-0932.

Alabama New South Alliance endorses candidates for the August 25th municipal elections

Sandra Walker

The Alabama New South Alliance (ANSA) met on Sunday afternoon to endorse candidates in the upcoming August 25th municipal elections in Eutaw and Forkland, Alabama.
Carol Zippert, Greene County chapter chairperson, welcomed the 30 ANSA members who partciapated in the screening. “I sent letters to every municipal candidate, in contested races, to attend the screening and decide on these endorsements.”
Judge Lillie Osborne, chair of the ANSA endorsement committee, explained the endorsement process. Each mayoral candidate was given 15 minutes, 3 minutes of introductory remarks and 12 minutes of questions, while council candidates were given 10 minutes, 2 minutes for opening remarks and 8 minutes of questions.
ANSA endorsed Sandra Walker for Mayor of Eutaw. She and two of her opponents, Latasha Johnson and Joe Lee Powell, attended the screening, however, incumbent Mayor Raymond Steele and Queena Bennett Whitehead did not attend to answer voter’s questions.
For Mayor of Forkland, the ANSA endorsed incumbent Charlie McAlpine, over his opponent Michael Barton, who did not attend the screening.
For the City of Eutaw, ANSA endorsed Valerie Watkins for City Council District 1. Opponent Ke’Undra Q. Cox attended the screening but Chandra Mayes did not.
For City of Eutaw, District 2, ANSA endorsed incumbent La’Jeffrey Carpenter over his opponent Bryant N. Snyder Jr., who both attended the screening and competed for the endorsement. The City Council District 3 seat is uncontested with Tracy Hunter, as the sole candidate who qualified.
Incumbent District 4 City Council member, Sheila H. Smith, was endorsed by ANSA. Her opponent Larry Coleman did not attend the screening.
For Eutaw City Council, District 5, the ANSA endorsed Rodney Wesley. His opponent Jaqueline Stewart did not attend the screening.
ANSA will publish a sample ballot with its endorsements to be distributed to the voters before the election and at the polls.
ANSA is the sister organization to the Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) which is a statewide predominately Black and progressive social justice organization .
ANSC works year-round on civil rights and social justice issues such as Medicaid Expansion, police reform, voter suppression and other issues. Membership is open to the public at $30 a year – $25 for the state and $5 for the local chapter. Persons interested in joining may contact Carol Zippert, Greene County chapter president at 205-372-0525; zippert.carol79@gmail.com

The Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy: Standing Six Feet Apart so Alabamians Will Not Be Lying Six Feet Under

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Montgomery, AL – We, leaders in the SaveOurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, are here on the steps of the Alabama Capitol standing up six feet apart so Alabamians will not have to be lying six feet under. We are profoundly concerned about the coronavirus pandemic here in Alabama.
We are deeply concerned that people who need tests cannot get tests. We are strongly concerned that rural hospitals have closed with even more on the verge of closing, and those that are there will not be able to be provide all the services that this coronavirus will require. We are deeply concerned for the health care – or profound lack of health care – for the working poor in our state. We were strongly concerned and vocal long before the coronavirus pandemic. We believe that the lack of health care for too many in Alabama will be exacerbated, not only during this pandemic but long after the pandemic.
We are in the biggest crisis this country has seen in a long time. Alabama is in its biggest crisis in a long time, and it is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can to deal with this crisis and the crisis that will follow. A data analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Alabama ranks among the top six most at-risk states for its adult population. Forty-six percent of Alabama adults are at risk. If we do not address this head on now, many more Alabamians will get the coronavirus and too many will die when we could take steps now to prevent that. Therefore, we are here, standing six feet apart so fewer Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. We know we take a risk by being here, even with all of our precautions, but the risk of not standing up and speaking out now and not expanding Medicaid now is profoundly greater. That is why we are here.
Attorney Faya Toure said: “I have a friend who had all of the symptoms of the coronavirus but could not get a test because, after being in line for hours, they told her a doctor had to refer her. People without health insurance have a hard time getting a doctor who will refer them. We must have tests for every person who needs a test in every county in the state. If we expanded Medicaid, Alabamians would have a much greater chance of getting tests and saving lives. In addition, the Black Belt has been ignored throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and that has not changed. There are no reported cases in the Black Belt because there is no testing in the Black Belt. We can and must do better.”
John Zippert said: “I am Chair of the Board of the Greene County Hospital System. Rural hospitals in Alabama are struggling mightily just to exist. Too many have closed and more will be closing. Rural hospitals need to be able to provide these services while the coronavirus is raging but also be able to provide necessary services after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. And it will only subside if we take action now. Medicaid expansion would protect rural hospitals and citizens in rural hospitals, and it cannot wait. In fact, it is long overdue in Alabama. There are 340,000 human beings in Alabama, most of them working poor, who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. We must do something immediately.”
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “There are so many Alabamians at risk because they have compromised immune systems, autoimmune disorders, are mentally ill, have dementia, are in foster care, are in prison or jail or detention and more. There are already plans to triage these Alabamians when it comes to treatment of the coronavirus, which means they very well would not receive any treatment and many will die if Governor Ivey fails to take action. We must do what we can do in Alabama. And we can expand Medicaid now.”
Founder of the World Conference of Mayors and former State Representative and Mayor Johnny Ford said: “Too many people’s heath is at risk. Some people are even at risk for death. The coronavirus pandemic is increasing the risks to health and the risk of death. Fifty-five years ago today, on the last day of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, leaders spoke powerfully at this Capitol demanding voting rights. We are here today demanding that health care be a right as is it in all other developed countries. We begin with Medicaid expansion. I want to also add that it is has been the mayors of our state who have stepped up and taken the lead in protecting Alabamians during this coronavirus pandemic, and we thank them for their leadership, courage and wisdom.”
Attorney and former State Senator Hank Sanders said: “I was here 55 years ago today when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked the question, “How Long?” about voting rights and other rights. I and the rest of the massive crowd responded, “Not Long!” We are here today standing six feet apart so that Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. Dr. King asked, “How Long?” 55 years ago, and today we are asking, “How Long” will it be until Alabama expands Medicaid so that the working poor can have health insurance and health care so they can stand a chance to be tested and treated, not only during the coronavirus pandemic but afterwards? I hope and pray the answer to “How Long? is “Not Long!”

Alabama New South Coalition holds Fall Convention

ANSC new state officers: L to R: Debra Foster, President, Everett Wess, First Vice President, Sharon Wheeler, Treasurer and Patricia Lewis Corresponding Secretary
ANSC Healthcare Panel: Rep. Merika Coleman speaking, Norma Jackson, Sen Malika Sanders Fortier and John Zippert ANSC past president.

On Saturday, November 2, Alabama New South Coalition held its Fall Convention at the RSA Activity Center on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery.
More than 200 delegates from around the state attended this 34th. annual convention of the predominately Black and progressive political and social change organization. The theme of the ANSC Fall Convention was “ Lifting our Values, our Voices and our Votes”.
The convention had three workshops on important voting issues; two mayors – Mayor Gary Richardson of Midfield and newly elected Mayor Tim Ragland of Talladega – addressed the luncheon. U. S. Senator Doug Jones also addressed the group about his service in Washington D. C. and plans for the upcoming 2020 election.
The members of ANSC approved a report from their Nominating Committee for new state officers for a two-year term beginning at the end of the Convention. Debra Foster of Calhoun County was elected President, Everett Wess of Jefferson County elected First Vice President, Ivan Peebles, Greene County, Second Vice-President (youth), Sharon Wheeler, Montgomery, Treasurer, Matilda Hamilton of Tallapoosa County for Recording Secretary and Patricia Lewis of Mobile for Corresponding Secretary.
The Healthcare Workshop heard from Rep. Merika Coleman of Jefferson County, Senator Malika Sanders Fortier of Dallas County and Norma Jackson of Macon County.
Rep. Coleman said, “Working people in Alabama deserve healthcare that is why we have been working to expand Medicaid for those whose income is up to 138% of the poverty level. This impacts over 300,000 people from all parts of Alabama. Governor Ivey promised that after we passed an increase in the gas tax that she and the Republican leadership in the Legislature would revisit the issue of Medicaid Expansion but they have not followed through. This is because they know it would involve an increase in the budget, which would have to be paid for with increase in taxes or some other changes.”
Senator Fortier, said, “Without Medicaid Expansion, 340,000 people in Alabama face terror in securing health care. They are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Our state is 5th worse in the nation, in our rate of infant mortality which is preventable with expanded healthcare coverage.” Fortier says she has been working with other Senators of both parties to find a solution to expand Medicaid. “ We need $158 million for year one and $30 million each year thereafter to fund Medicaid expansion in the state of Alabama. The Federal government provides 90% of the cost, under the Affordable Care Act and the state must match with 10%. We can find this money to cover 340,000 working adults, provide 30,000 new jobs in the healthcare field, keep hospitals, especially rural hospitals open, and improve the general health and wellbeing of our people in Alabama.”
Norma Jackson, Chair of the Macon County ANSC Chapter said, “We have a sickness-care system in Alabama not a health care system. We need to do more to take care of our own health alongside doctors, hospitals and others.” She suggested five steps: “eat fresh foods, drink clean water, breath fresh air, do exhilarating exercise and have rejuvenating rest for better healthcare that we can take responsibility for ourselves.”
The panel on Criminal Justice and Economic Development featured three speakers including Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa, County Commissioner Sheila Tyson of Jefferson County and Robert Avery of Gadsden.
Rep. England said, “Conditions in Alabama’s prison system are so overcrowded and bad that inmates are condemned to cruel and unusual punishment worse than the death penalty.” He said, “ The solutions lie in reducing the use of the system as a debtors prison, for those who cannot pay fines; more restorative justice, where prisoners are taught a skill in prison that they can use to make a living when they come out of prison, pay correction officers a fair wage, to attract better people and building more prisons to replace existing out of date and overcrowded prisons.”
Commissioner Tyson spoke to removing barriers to people to get workforce training and jobs with new industries. She said that she worked to change bus routes to go in low-income neighborhoods to increase participation by poor people in workforce training for new jobs coming into her district.
The third panel on Voting Rights was moderated by Faya Rose Toure and included: Robert Turner of Bullock County who stressed that a voteless people are a helpless people; Sam Walker of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma; Senator Bobby Singleton, who spoke to the issue that half of the registered Black voters in Alabama, do not turnout to vote; and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, who spoke on his efforts to encourage people in jails, prior to trial and conviction, who are eligible to vote, to vote absentee and helping to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated felons, under Alabama’s new Moral Turpitude Law.

Alabama Hospital Association highlights importance of expanding Medicaid

News Analysis by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The Alabama Hospital Association, a statewide trade organization representing 100 hospitals in the state is launching the ALhealthmatters campaign highlighting the importance of expanding Medicaid. The Association says If Alabama expands Medicaid, almost 300,000 uninsured Alabamians would receive health insurance coverage, an estimated 30,000 jobs would be created, and $28 billion in new economic activity would be generated.  Alabama would also save millions of dollars on current state services.  “On average, almost one out of every 10 hospital patients does not have health insurance, resulting in more than $530 million annually in uncompensated care,” said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association.  “Currently, 75 percent of Alabama’s hospitals are operating in the red, meaning the dollars they receive for caring for patients are not enough to cover the cost of that care.  Expanding Medicaid would be a significant investment in the state’s fragile health care infrastructure and would help maintain access to care for everyone.” “In Greene County because we are a poor county, one in three patients do not have any insurance, which means we provide an average of $100,000 in uncompensated care per month. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would help people in our county whose earn less than 138% of poverty (approximately $20,000 annual for a family of four) to secure affordable health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Marcia Pugh, Administrator of the Greene County Health System. Howard adds that hospitals and other health care providers are a critical piece of the state’s infrastructure.  “Alabama’s hospitals employ about 90,000 individuals and indirectly support another 96,000 jobs,” she said.  “Not only are they often one of the largest employers in their communities, but hospitals also have a huge economic impact on their local economy.  Statewide, the annual economic impact of Alabama hospitals is nearly $20 billion, not to mention the pivotal role access to quality health care plays in recruiting and keeping new businesses.” The Alabama Hospital Association statement indicates the importance of expanding Medicaid but does not endorse the state’s Democratic political candidates who support Medicaid expansion. Walt Maddox, Democratic candidate for Governor, in the November election, says, “ I will expand Medicaid for Alabama during the first hour of the first day that I am Governor. We will find the resources to pay our part of the costs to pay for this critical life-saving service from our people.” Incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey has not expanded Medicaid and does not intend to because of cost. State Senator Hank Sanders said, “ It is clear that on the one issue of expanding Medicaid, there is a clear distinction between the candidates for Governor on the ballot in November.

Democratic candidate Walt Maddox will expand Medicaid and help save lives in Alabama as well as expand our economy in every county, while Kay Ivey will continue to oppose this program for narrow political reasons.” Since 2010 when Medicaid expansion has been available under the Affordable Care Act, Alabama has lost $7 billion in Federal support under the program. For the first three years of the program, there was no cost to the states to participate. This has increased by 2.5% a year until it reached the maximum 10% this fiscal year. In addition in coming years beginning in 2020, the disproportionate share reimbursement rate payment to rural hospitals will decline because the program assumes coverage for low-income people in the state by Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Rural hospitals in states like Alabama, that have not expanded Medicaid, will begin to take a “double-whammy” for not expanding Medicaid – more patients without insurance coupled with lower reimbursement rates. Howard notes that a recent study showed that hospitals in expansion states were 84 percent less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states.  “Alabama has had 12 hospitals close since 2011, and more are on the verge of closing if something doesn’t change,” she added. “Plus, the economic impact in other states has been tremendous; Louisiana has added 19,000 jobs; nearly 50 percent of new enrollees in Ohio have been able to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the state has seen a 17-percent drop in emergency department use; Kentucky has seen an increase in state revenues of $300 million.” The AHA study says, “Investing in the rural health care infrastructure is critical as Alabama works to improve rural prosperity.  Alabama’s rural hospitals are an anchor in their communities‒creating jobs, providing critical care, and supporting other industries.   ​“When a rural hospital closes, other mainstays in the community often follow … local pharmacies, physicians, banks, and grocery stores to name a few. When a rural hospital closes, it’s very difficult to attract new business. “ ​Throughout the next few months, hospitals will be talking with business, civic and government leaders to stress the importance of expanding Medicaid in Alabama and to share quantitative results of the positive impact it is having in other states.  For more information on the impact Medicaid expansion could have in Alabama, visitwww.alhealthmatters.com.

Alabama’s rural hospitals are on life support Legislature claims victory in adjourning early while ignoring life-saving issues Alabama SOS again calls for Medicaid Expansion in Alabama

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Shown above John Zippert Chair of SOS Health Committee addresses crowd

 

Montgomery, AL – Members of Alabama SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, held a news conference, Tuesday, March 27th, at 11:30 a.m. in the 3rd Floor Press Room of the Alabama State House to address critical and time-sensitive health care issues facing the State of Alabama.
John Zippert, Chair of the SOS Health Committee said: “We are concerned about the State of Alabama’s requesting a Medicaid rule change that would affect 8,500 Medicaid caretakers in our state, denying them Medicaid coverage. The rule requires they show they are earning a mandatory wage. These 8,500 people are taking care of Medicaid-eligible children and/or seniors and adults. They are hardworking Alabamians caring for others, but they are not earning a wage that would provide them Medicaid coverage under this rule.

“For these Alabamians to be covered under this new rule, they would no longer be able to care for other Medicaid-eligible Alabamians, who are either children or adults or seniors in much greater need. This makes absolutely no sense. This is part of a national trend that is needlessly hurting people in Alabama and other states by putting political rhetoric ahead of facts and dollars and sense.”
“SOS is urging everyone who disagrees with Governor Ivey’s shortsighted and meanspirited effort to impose a work requirement on Medicaid caretakers to write the State of Alabama Medicaid agency expressing our concern and opposition.. Each of us has the opportunity to email our comments by April 2nd at PublicComment@medicaid.alabama.gov and by mail to Administrative Secretary, Alabama Medicaid Agency, 501 Dexter Ave., P.O. Box 5624, Montgomery, AL 36103-5624,” said John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-Chair.
Johnny Ford, SOS Health Care Committee Co-Chair and founder of the World Conference of Mayors, said: “Because the State of Alabama has not expanded Medicaid coverage, small rural hospitals across Alabama are being hurt, threatened with closure, or closed. Many of the people coming to these hospitals were supposed to be covered by Medicaid but currently are not. This is harming the area where I live as well as rural areas throughout our entire state. If these hospitals close, all people in these areas will be directly hurt.”
Another critical issue SOS addressed is the ongoing failure of the State of Alabama to expand Medicaid coverage. “Expanding Medicaid would be a huge economic boon to our state,” said Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders. “More than 30 states across the country, including in the South, have already expanded Medicaid. Alabama tax dollars are going to help people in other states instead of the people of Alabama.”
Zippert, who is also Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System and President of the Alabama New South Coalition added: “Medicaid reimbursement – including the disproportionate share that rural hospitals already receive – has been even further reduced by the failure to expand Medicaid. People who have insurance are also going to pay higher premiums in Alabama because we have not expanded Medicaid. So many Alabamians are paying the cost because the State refuses to expand Medicaid”
“Rural hospitals are on life support,” said Ford, “and the Governor could save them with the stroke of her pen. The Alabama Legislature is proud to be adjourning early this week claiming their work has been done while rural hospitals across the state – both in Black and White communities – are threatened with closure every day. This can be fixed with Medicaid expansion. We need action – not today, not yesterday, but years ago. But we will take action today. The Legislature’s work is not done nor is the work of the Governor.”
SOS is comprised of more than 40 statewide Alabama organizations committed to justice and democracy. Members of the SOS Health Committee led today’s news conference.

How a repeal of the Affordable Care Act will affect Blacks

By Glenn Ellis, Health columnist

acasigning President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, members of Congress and guests before the signing of the ACA on March 23, 2010. PHOTO: The White House

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Racism has historically had a significant, negative impact on the health care of Blacks and other people of color in the United States. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is truly the first time that African-Americans have, collectively, had significant access to health care. It is noteworthy that America’s first African-American president is chiefly responsible for this access.

Improved access to care; Medicaid expansion; prevention medicine; and lifting of barriers for pre-existing conditions, are all aspects of the ACA that have been of great benefit to Blacks. But there is a thick air of uncertainty on the horizon.

In a few weeks, Donald John Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. It is unclear how quickly, or when, Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare will play out. But make no mistake, just like the adage, “when white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia!”, a repeal of the ACA would disproportionately hurt blacks.

Republicans in Congress have put out their plans: to repeal most of the ACA without replacing it; doubling the number of uninsured people – from roughly 29 million to 59 million – and leave the nation with an even higher uninsured rate than before the ACA.

Let me point out a few ways that Blacks have, specifically, benefitted from the ACA, what many now call “Obamacare”. Given the low incomes of uninsured Blacks, nearly all (94 percent) are in the income range to qualify for the Medicaid expansion or premium tax credits. Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of uninsured Blacks have incomes at or below the Medicaid expansion limit, while an additional 31 percent are income-eligible for tax subsidies to help cover the cost of buying health insurance through the exchange marketplaces. Under the new law, insurance companies are banned from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, such as cancer and having been pregnant.

Importantly, for people living with HIV there also new protections in the law that make access to health coverage more equitable including the expansion of Medicaid and in the private market, prohibition on rate setting tied to health status, elimination of preexisting condition exclusions, and an end to lifetime and annual caps. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010 provided new opportunities for expanding health care access, prevention, and treatment services for millions of people in the U.S., including many people with, or at risk for, HIV.

Safety net hospitals play a critical role in the nation’s health care system by serving low-income, uninsured and medically and socially vulnerable patients regardless of their ability to pay. Also, in agreeing to lower payments, hospitals in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the law, have made up that revenue in part through the Medicaid expansion.

These places are critical to the health of Black communities, and in the poorest neighborhoods. They have been among the loudest voices against repeal of the health law, as they could lose billions if the 20 million people lose the insurance they gained under the law. This could bring about widespread layoffs, cuts in outpatient care and services for the mentally ill, and even hospital closings.

Under the ACA, these hospitals have received subsidies (or credits) to provide care based on a patients’ income levels. Should this change, community hospitals may have more difficulty weathering the storm of an increase in the number of uninsured.

Admittedly, there are some real problems with the ACA as we have come to know it; not the least being steady increases in premiums (midrange plans increased 22 percent nationally in 2016, with the average premium set to rise 25 percent in 2017); nearly 70 percent of all ACA plan provider networks are narrower than promised; and the high-deductibles and co-pays. Perhaps the most universal complaint is the “individual mandate”, that requires everyone in the United States to have insurance, or face a financial penalty.

Republicans are dead set on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Congress will likely pass significant modifications to the Affordable Care Act this month, which will be signed by incoming President Trump. The plans they have proposed so far would leave millions of people without insurance and make it harder for sicker, older Americans to access coverage. No version of a Republican plan would keep the Medicaid expansion as Obamacare envisions it.

Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely puts the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in jeopardy. A full repeal is unlikely, but major changes through the budget reconciliation process (which cannot be filibustered) are nearly certain.

But let me be clear; changes are needed in the ACA, but the idea of dismantling it remains a troubling prospect for Blacks.

Moral March for Higher Ground unveils ‘Healthcare Justice Quilt’ on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery

quilt

 

On Monday, September 12 a group of a hundred or more clergy and lay leaders marched from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to the State Capitol steps in Montgomery, Alabama.
The group carried a letter to Governor Bentley entitled “Higher Ground Moral Declaration” signed by more than 10,000 Alabama citizens and unfurled a quilt with a thousand pieces representing people in Alabama who had died because they did not have health insurance. Governor Bentley has not extended Medicaid to reach people up to 138% of the poverty level. There are 250,000 people in this gap between Medicaid coverage for the very poor and working poor people who do not make enough to qualify for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The actions in Montgomery were coordinated with demonstrations in more than twenty states by Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP leader and head of the “Moral Monday Movement” to raise moral concerns about the future direction of America.
In the Higher Ground Moral Declaration it states, “Following moral traditions rooted in our faith and the Constitution, we are called to stand up for justice and tell the truth. We challenge the position that the preeminent moral issues today are about prayer in public schools, abortion, and homosexuality. Instead, we declare the deepest public concerns of our faith traditions are how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.”
“This Higher Ground Moral Declaration provides a moral agenda for our nation on issues including: democracy and voting rights; poverty and economic justice; workers’ rights; education; healthcare; environmental justice; immigrant rights and challenging xenophobia; criminal justice; LGBTQ rights; and war-mongering and the military. For each issue area, an individual moral and constitutional foundation is established. The positions are neither left nor right, nor conservative or liberal. Rather, they are morally defensible, constitutionally consistent, and economically sound. Most importantly, they represent, as Dr. King urged, a revolution in values.”
At the Capitol steps, the persons who unveiled the Healthcare Justice Quilt made this statement, “The quilt has 1000 squares. We chose this figure to represent the minimum 1000 lives prematurely lost every year in Alabama, due to lack of health insurance. The quilt is also intended to remember additional lives lost due to inability to afford co-pays and deductibles, hospital closures, and all financial barriers to healthcare.
“We would like to recognize quilters around the state who have contributed to this project, including Mopsy Forsee, Linda Harman, Katherine Weathers, Pippa Abston, and the members of Project Linus in Huntsville.
“Our plan for the quilt is to write names of those who have died prematurely because of financial barriers to healthcare in our state. This is not restricted by year. We have pens here for any of you who wish to contribute names today. We will use this quilt as both a memorial for those named and unnamed, and as a call to action.
“We plan to have it at events in the state and to take it to government officials, so they have a visual reminder of the consequences of their policy decisions. Please contact us if you want to set up a meeting with your legislator or other government official or if you have an event in mind.
We will initially focus our efforts on the Medicaid Expansion. Even the expansion, however, will not bring health insurance to everyone; and full health insurance coverage that includes co-pays and deductibles will not make quality healthcare affordable to everyone. So this quilt will be used as long as it is needed—as long as there is anyone whose healthcare is limited due to money. We hope that one day, it will live in a museum, as a remembrance of what we did before we learned better.
“Our quilt is made of many different fabrics and by many hands, and it was stitched with love. Notice how the different fabrics, brought together, create a new and beautiful whole! We in Alabama are also of many colors, textures and patterns, all connected with the common thread of our humanity. When we come together, we are as beautiful as this quilt. We commit ourselves today to the love and care of all human beings!”