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Local health professionals join call for Medicaid expansion

Vaughan Regional Medical Center (VRMC) CEO David McCormack and local physician Dr. Lotfi Bashir joined over 300 medical professionals across the state in drafting a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey calling on the state to expand Medicaid.

The letter, released earlier this week, calls on Ivey to “put Alabamians first and expand Medicaid coverage…during the greatest public health crisis in more than a century.”

According to a press release from the Cover Alabama Coalition, a nonpartisan of more than 100 advocacy groups, businesses, community organizations, consumer groups, healthcare providers and religious congregations, some 300,000 low-income adults would gain access to affordable healthcare if the state expanded Medicaid.

“Alabama healthcare professionals see how the failure to expand Medicaid has put a financial strain on hospitals and providers,” said Cover Alabama Campaign Director Jane Adams, who organized the letter. “They understand that when people do not have access to preventive care, they face worse health outcomes that result in more invasive and expensive care. The best thing Governor Ivey could do to ensure that Alabama’s healthcare system comes out stronger from the pandemic is to invest in healthcare by expanding Medicaid coverage now.”

The letter noted that Alabama’s medical professionals “have to deliver life-altering news to patients and their families daily” and that “so much of this pain could be avoided or mitigated through preventive care and early detection.”

“Failure to expand Medicaid isn’t just bad for individual or public health outcomes, it’s bad for our entire healthcare system,” the letter continued. “When our patients can’t access preventive care or can’t pay for expensive treatments that are needed as a result, we often have to pay for their care one way or another. This financial burden has put a heavy strain on Alabama’s hospitals and medical practices.”

The letter noted that, since 2011, 14 hospitals have closed across the state, eight of them in rural areas, and the signees “fear many more will follow – as well as rural medical practices – unless Alabama quickly expands Medicaid.”

“Closures in rural areas, in particular, will leave thousands of Alabamians hours away from emergency services,” the letter added. “Our state’s already strained rural primary care physicians and medical practices will struggle even more to fill in the gaps and urban and suburban facilities will struggle to accommodate the influx of new patients.”

Alabama is one of only 12 states in the nation that has not expanded Medicaid – under U.S. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, holdout states are eligible for an increase in federal dollars to aid Medicaid expansion.

According to the press release, estimates indicate that the new federal incentive could mean “hundreds of millions of dollars of new federal funds for Alabama Medicaid over two years,” which is more than enough to “offset the initial costs of expansion.”

“Our state can and should do better,” the letter concluded. “It’s time to move forward in a collaborative and bipartisan way to make Alabama healthier. Now more than ever, it’s time to do what’s best for the health and prosperity of all Alabamians. It’s time to expand Medicaid.”