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Alabama Governor Continues to Reject Medicaid Expansion

As of today 28states including the District of Columbia has decided to partake in the Medicaid Expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act. However Most Southern states — including Alabama (Alabama Medicaid Expansion Rejected), Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina — have opted not to extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

One of these states included above is the state of Alabama. Alabama’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility to as many as 235,000 uninsured, low-income residents maybe  hindering the state’s economic development efforts. As of March 2014, 1.02 million Alabamians were enrolled in Medicaid, the majority of whom were children and people with disabilities. Accepting Medicaid Expansion would bring much needed funds to support the current Alabama Medicaid System, and preventing long term financial challenges. This continues to be a point argued by many business experts at a recent Economic Development Association meeting part of the Alabama’s summer conference.

To date atleast  a dozen rural hospitals across the state have shuttered their doors and  staying on this current trajectory of holding out on Medicaid expansion for Alabama can lead to a dozen more potentially shutting down over the next two years said Dianne Howard. Howard is currently the senior vice president of government relations and emergency preparedness for the Alabama Hospital Association.

“Things are tough,” Howard said, according to AL.com. Looking back to two years ago in 2012, where the average operating margin for rural Alabama hospitals was 1.1 percent, with 22 of these hospitals operating at a negative profit margin.  As time has passed, and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility to residents making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level the problem has intensified.

Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and other state lawmakers have continually rejected the expansion on grounds that it will become too costly to sustain in the long run. This an argument that most of the other governors holding out have stated since 2010. Bentley argues “We will never see an end to the plague of poverty by offering a deeper dependence on a flawed government system,” during his State of the State speech in January.

However the counter argument of business experts in Alabama and the White house is not in alignment with the governor’s view. According to a White House study released in July, that decision will cost Alabama $3.63 billion in federal funding, 15,100 jobs and $2.6 billion in increased economic activity through 2017.

While the state continue to reject Medicaid Expansion, the  Alabama’s health care providers and the insured bears 100% of the costs of uninsured patients. According to business experts its a known fact that Emergency room care is the most expensive form of care, n the state of Alabama 75 percent of emergency room patients in Alabama are uninsured and they tend to enter the system at a more advanced and costly stage of illness.

Business and Politics Join Forces

In recent months, health care leaders and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama have united to advocate for Medicaid expansion, emphasizing its importance at a time when Medicare outlays for hospital services have been cut $220 billion.

Parker Griffith, Bentley’s Democratic challenger in November, has set Medicaid expansion at the forefront of his gubernatorial campaign, criticizing Bentley, who is a dermatologist, for failing to protect patients’ best interests.

Bentley’s refusal to implement Medicaid expansion is “not based on what’s best for the people in Alabama, but on the fact that he doesn’t like the current president,” Griffith, a retired oncologist who voted against the Affordable Care Act as a Republican congressman in 2010, said at a townhall-style meeting  “It appalls me that a man who signs his name with the initials M.D. would put politics before helping people.”

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