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.
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.
Alabama has one of the most bare-bones Medicaid programs in the country. Adults who don’t have children don’t qualify and parents who have children only qualify if they make 18 percent or less of the federal poverty line, which amounts to less than $3,000 a year for a family of two.. Medicaid expansion would allow Alabamians making up to $23,336 a year for a household of two, or 138 percent of the poverty level, to receive health care they can afford.
U.S. Census data shows about 32,000 more Alabamians were uninsured in 2018 than in 2017, a number that is sure to rise as Alabama’s inaction on Medicaid expansion continues during this economic recession.