Students, veterans eligible under Medicaid expansion; Bentley no - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Students, veterans eligible under Medicaid expansion; Bentley not budging

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Nearly 98,000 Alabamians have now signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The numbers released Thursday show more than half are women.

The biggest age group selecting a plan on the marketplace were people between ages 18 to 34. More people in that age group enrolled in Alabama plans than the national average.

The report didn't say how many people have actually paid their premiums.

Those figures also don't include people who could be eligible for Medicaid expansion.

Cale Ransom has a unique view of the federal healthcare law. He enlisted in the Army National Guard before he left high school in Tallassee. He served in Iraq as a military police officer assigned to train Iraqi police.

His tour of duty ended in 2010. That year he cast his ballot for the Republican nominee for governor, then-Rep. Robert Bentley.

After working a few different jobs, he thought it was best to go back to school. He enrolled at Central Alabama Community College with bigger goals in mind.

"I eventually want to become a lawyer, a public defender," Ransom said.

Several months ago, over the course of merely weeks, he was informed by Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama that his health insurance plan, for which he had been paying $100 per month, was to be discontinued.

When Ransom got that notice from Blue Cross Blue Shield last fall he was already using his military stipend from the Veterans' Administration to pay his $100 premium. The insurance company told him his same plan was now $200.

He has no income and because he's 26 years old he can't stay on his parents' health insurance.

He falls into the coverage gap in Alabama of roughly a quarter million people without access to or a way to pay for health insurance.

Living at home, Ransom bit the bullet and started paying his $200 premium.

He later turned to Alabama's federally facilitated healthcare exchange where he learned that because of his age and income he was eligible for Medicaid coverage under the expansion.

Governor Bentley has repeatedly said that he refuses to expand Medicaid, calling it a "broken system."

The state's Medicaid program is already one of the most lean and restrictive in the country. Medicaid expansion would add an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 new Alabamians to the rolls, and the state would have to pay roughly $200 million over the next eight years to pay for it.

On the flip side, Alabama would receive billions in federal funds -- money the state would have never taken in otherwise.

As a former soldier, Ransom says he doesn't understand the governor's position.

"When I came back from Iraq I had been in an environment where leaders made decisions based on what was best for the people under them. They were able to put political differences aside," Ransom said. "I support the governor in everything he's done up to this point, but this is a time where he needs to stand up and make a decision that will benefit the people under him instead of playing political football with our insurance policies."

Alabama is one of 24 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

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