Politics aside, support new health carePublished 1:00am Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Alabamians know that Medicaid is a critical government service that we need to fully fund. It provides 70 percent of payments to nursing homes and paid for 53 percent of the births in Alabama in 2012.
Medicaid provides basic health care to those who cannot afford private health insurance. But even with Medicaid, there are still about 350,000 Alabamians who do not have health insurance. That comes out to about one in five people in our state.
We have had a chance to give those 350,000 people health insurance. In fact, not only could we have provided them with health care coverage, the state also could have raised a billion dollars doing it. But we are missing out on that opportunity because the leadership in Montgomery is more concerned with appearing to be fighting “Obamacare.”
The Affordable Healthcare Act would allow states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover their uninsured without the expense draining state budgets.
For the first few years, the expansion would be paid for entirely from federal funds. After that the state would be required to pay a small portion until the year 2020, when the state’s contribution would be capped at 10 percent.
In other words, we could expand Medicaid, provide health care to 350,000 Alabamians who otherwise would be forced to have no healthcare or go to emergency rooms where they cannot be turned away (the expense then gets passed along to those who do have insurance), and it would all be paid for by federal tax dollars.
At most, the state would have to pay only 10 percent after seven years. That’s a 9-to-1 ratio. It’s an obvious investment to make.
Last month, the University of Alabama at Birmingham released a report that showed that the Medicaid expansion would actually generate a billion dollars in new revenue for the state. The injection of federal dollars into our healthcare system would increase the amount of state tax revenues collected, but would also be a boost for job creation.
The healthcare industry is responsible for 11 percent of jobs in Alabama. The influx of federal dollars would mean more jobs created. It is also worth noting that federal tax dollars are paying for this expansion regardless. So if we do not expand, then our dollars will pay for expansion in other states. Gov. Bentley originally supported expanding. But after he met with other Republican governors a few months ago, he changed his position.
Now is not the time to play partisan political games. We need to expand Alabama’s Medicaid program and bring our tax dollars back home. We can provide health care to those who do not have it and actually generate more money for the state without raising taxes in the process. Let’s put politics aside and do what’s right for Alabama.