Terri Sewell and Doug Jones
Birmingham, AL – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) called on Governor Kay Ivey today to expand the state Medicaid program. With mandatory closures due to shelter in place orders in many of Alabama’s cities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have been forced to lay off or furlough workers, jeopardizing their employer-based health coverage. Nearly 94,000 Alabamians have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
“Ultimately, the crisis before us is a matter of public health. Fighting and beating this virus depends on Alabamians’ ability to receive the testing and care they need,” Sewell said. “Uninsured Alabamians – many of whom have lost their jobs and health coverage as a result of the COVID-19 crisis – should not be forced to choose between getting tested, treated and seeking care to protect themselves, their families and our communities from further spread of the virus and being faced with hundreds of dollars in medical bills.”
“With President Trump’s refusal to re-open the Obamacare marketplace during these difficult times, it is more important than ever that Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature act swiftly to expand Medicaid,” Sewell continued. “Not only would expansion provide affordable health care to more than 340,000 Alabamians, it would also serve as an economic boon, adding about $1.7 billion a year to our economy. All Alabamians stand to benefit from Medicaid expansion and, especially, the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The Kaiser foundation projects the cost of inpatient admissions for COVID-19 treatment could exceed $20,000. This is an extraordinary financial constraint that could prevent Alabamians from seeking testing or treatment, potentially furthering the spread of the virus.
After commending Gov. Ivey for instating a “Stay at Home Order”, senator Doug Jones stated, “I also continue to emphasize Alabama must take all steps necessary to expand Medicaid immediately so we can provide health coverage for an additional 326,000 Alabamians. This crisis has shown us that we’re all in this together, but it has also shown us that too many people can fall through the cracks of our health care system. I have been advocating for this for years, but now more than ever I hope folks understand the need to expand the program and help the most vulnerable in our community. It’s simply the right thing to do—for our health and for our economy—and I hope our state leaders can set aside whatever politics has blocked this in the past to get this done now.”
Sewell and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) worked to include in the CARES Act, Congress’ third coronavirus response package, legislation they have introduced to ensure that all states that expand Medicaid coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act receive an equal federal match for expansion, regardless of when a state chooses to expand Medicaid coverage. While their efforts were scuttled by Senate Republicans, they remain committed and are actively working with Democratic leadership to push to have it included in any future coronavirus response legislative packages.