Sewell praises bill to protect ‘dreamers,’ calls for Medicaid expansion

Published 4:12 pm Thursday, June 6, 2019

During a House Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, recalled a recent visit to Hill Hospital in Sumter County last week to highlight the dire state of rural hospitals in Alabama and again call for the state to expand Medicaid.

“Last week, I had the fortune of visiting one of my rural hospitals in Sumter County, Alabama,” Sewell said. “Over 90 percent of this hospital’s patients are either on Medicaid or Medicare or are uninsured – 90 percent. Our state Medicaid program reimburses these hospitals at about 10 percent of emergency room costs in some cases and Medicare doesn’t reimburse higher than 67 percent of costs. First and foremost, our states need to expand Medicaid. We know that nearly 90 percent of rural hospital closures have occurred in states that had not expanded Medicaid before the closure.”

According to a press release from Sewell’s office, Medicaid expansion would allow Alabamians making up to $23,336 annually for a household of two, or 138 percent of the poverty level, to receive affordable healthcare.

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About 320,000 Alabamians would benefit from the change and, as a result, hospitals would receive increased reimbursements and more likely be able to keep their doors open.

“It’s very important that we put politics aside and help hospitals and citizens in states that have been left behind by their state leaders’ decisions not to expand Medicaid,” Sewell said. “At the same time, we cannot expect our rural hospitals in non-expansion states to survive if the Medicare program continues reimbursing for hospital services at bare-bone levels.”

In an effort to incentivize Medicaid expansion in Alabama and other holdout states, Sewell introduced legislation earlier this year that would allow states to receive the same benefits as those that expanded Medicaid early on.

Also on Tuesday, Sewell praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the American Dream and Promise Act, which provides a path to citizenship for so-called “dreamers” who meet certain criteria, as well as those currently in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders.

“Dreamers and TPS recipients are essential members of communities across the country, working and living alongside us all,” Sewell said. “Dreamers don’t just call America home, it is their home and, in many cases, it’s the only one they can remember. Thousands of dreamers living in Alabama, like Gadsden City High School graduate Fernanda Herera and Samford University graduate Roshell Rosales, were brought to the United States as children. Today, we know them as neighbors, coworkers, students and military service members, but, above all, they are Alabamians.”

Alabama is home to more than 10,000 immigrants eligible for protection under the House-passed legislation and up to 2.5 million immigrants across the nation could be protected as well.