Poll: Alabamians want Medicaid expansion - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Poll: Alabamians want Medicaid expansion

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A new poll from a non-profit group in Washington DC shows that Alabamians are in favor, by a wide margin, of expanding the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

The poll, conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies asked participants several questions about the federal healthcare law and what they felt about individual sections.

Overall, poll respondents in Alabama were not fans of the law known as "Obamacare." 41% view the law as a whole unfavorably while only 35% said they viewed the law favorably.

However, when individual pieces of the law were polled, the results showed that there is overwhelming support in Alabama for at least part of the Affordable Care Act.

64% of respondents said that they were in favor of expanding the Medicaid program under the law. When Congress originally passed the federal healthcare law, Medicaid expansion was mandatory, but the United States Supreme Court, when it ruled to uphold most of the law, struck down the expansion requirement, leaving the decision solely in the states' hands.

[ON THE WEB: Read the full study (.pdf)]

Alabama's Governor Robert Bentley has said repeatedly that he refuses to expand a "broken system" referring to the state's Medicaid Agency. Alabama's Medicaid program is one of the most restrictive in the country. Essentially, the only people eligible are poor women, their children, and pregnant women. Men are ineligible to receive state funded healthcare benefits.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the eligibility was expanded to include anyone at 133% of the poverty level. In Alabama, that could mean that an additional 300,000 people could receive health insurance.

The other part of the law that polled overwhelmingly in favor was the question about setting up a health insurance exchange in Alabama. An exchange is an online marketplace where consumers could compare healthcare plans and prices and make purchases as well. Under Obamacare, the state could set up its own exchange, the federal government could set one up for the state, or the state could create a hybrid exchange working in tandem with the federal government.

Gov. Bentley refuses to set up a state exchange, instead opting to allow the federal government to decide what will work best for Alabama.

76.8% of poll respondents said they support setting up state level exchanges.

Alabama lawmakers approved a Medicaid reform measure that is aimed at reducing costs while improving patient care through Regional Care Organizations. The RCO's are set to be online by September of this year. All of the changes to Medicaid are set to be complete by 2016.

The federal government will cover the entire Medicaid expansion for the first three years starting in 2014, going down to 90% by the year 2020.

If Alabama doesn't expand Medicaid by 2014, it will miss out on millions in federal funds.

Early estimates project that Alabama would have to pay about $70 million in start-up costs for the Medicaid expansion.

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