Throughout the United States, particularly in Alabama, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not the state should expand its current Medicaid Program. The bottom line is that the financial benefit to the Alabama economy far outweighs the costs. What is the benefit exactly? According to a recent report released by the Alabama Hospital Association, the annual economic gain is $2.7 billion, a local gain of $73.3 million, with a cost of $25 million annually. Essentially for every $1 the state invests, the federal government provides $9.
Why is this important for the State of Alabama? Why is it important for citizens who already have insurance?
Alabama’s hospitals currently employ nearly 90,000 people, support an additional 96,000 jobs and have a $20 billion impact on the state’s economy. Locally, Cullman Regional employs approximately 1,100 people, supports 2,150 jobs and has a $200 million overall economic impact on the local economy. Not only do hospitals across the state support the local people and the local economy, hospitals are an essential part of local infrastructure – Cullman Regional is one of the top 3 employers in Cullman County and a critical factor in recruiting and keeping jobs. Since 2011, 13 hospitals have closed in the State of Alabama. Seven of the hospitals that closed were in rural areas and 75 percent of hospitals across the state are currently operating in red – meaning that many of these hospitals may also close in the near future. Cullman Regional is proud to be bucking the trend in this area, but this will continue to be harder for all hospitals as more and more people can no longer afford healthcare coverage. Currently, Alabama hospitals spend more than $500 million each year caring for the uninsured. Cullman Regional provided more than $9 million in care – which was the actual cost of providing the care.
How will Medicaid Expansion help? How does this impact citizens that already have health insurance coverage?
By expanding Medicaid, more than 340,000 individuals, most of whom are working, would have basic health insurance coverage. Locally, an estimated 9,055 adults would become eligible for healthcare coverage. One of the reports released by the Alabama hospital Association states that the ripple effect of increased Medicaid enrollees as well as the additional federal funds will require expansion of providers and services available for all citizens which means better access to healthcare for all.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Medicaid coverage in Alabama, so here are a few facts about Medicaid in Alabama:
- Medicaid is health insurance for low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. It supports thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in the health care sector, one of the state’s largest industries.
- Alabama has one of the most restrictive Medicaid eligibilities in the country.
- Medicaid expansion is an option to expand Alabama’s current Medicaid coverage to care for people who make too much to quality for Medicaid, but not enough to afford insurance – essentially, the working poor.
Have other states that have expanded Medicaid seen any positive results?
- The rate of adults without health insurance dropped from 35 percent to 16 percent in expansion states from 2008-2016.
- Medicaid expansion has led to earlier cancer detection, fewer deaths and better outcomes for patients in expansion states.
- Expansion states have increased access to substance abuse treatment and other critical mental health services.
Many hospitals in Alabama are struggling, and expanding Medicaid is a way to help prevent other hospitals in our State from closing. The report released from Alabama Hospital Association stated that Hospitals are 84 percent more likely to close in non-expansion states. Health care is an essential part of the local economy, and we all want to have access to the latest technology and the highest quality of care. We need to make a critical investment in healthcare, just as we invest in other state infrastructure needs such as education and roads. Expanding Medicaid coverage would be a significant step toward keeping access to care in many communities.
Help make Medicaid Expansion a priority for our state. How can you help?
- Review the reports referenced in this editorial by visiting alhealthmatters.com to see all of the data.
- Contact the Governor’s office at (334) 242-7100 or send a message online at https://contact.governor.alabama.gov/contact.aspx and tell her you support Medicaid Expansion
- Contact your local legislatures to let them know you want them to support Medicaid Expansion in our state:
PO Box 472
Cullman, Alabama 35056
Phone: (256) 385-5510