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Democrats again call for Alabama Medicaid expansion

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 5:58 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Democrats have once again renewed calls for the state to expand Medicaid.

Alabama Senate Democrats said in a press conference Tuesday that the federal stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden provides a “second chance” for additional money to expand the program.

The aid package includes a provision giving states that have not expanded Medicaid a boost in federal funding for two years.

Gov, Kay Ivey’s spokesperson, Gina Maiola, said access to quality health care for Alabamians has been a priority for the governor but added “However, as she has made clear, the problem has always been how to pay for it.”

Maiola said Ivey “is open to the discussion, but right now, we simply do not have all the facts.”

“I just want to say to Governor Ivey, if not now, when?” said state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, at the press conference. “We’re in a critical part of the state to where we’ve seen COVID ravish our communities, to see local rural hospitals shut down. We’ve seen the fact that we don’t have telemedicine in our communities.”

The coalition Cover Alabama has said if Alabama expanded Medicaid it would provide insurance for about 220,000 Alabamians.

Democrats said Alabama would receive an additional $940 million from the federal government for the next two years to expand Medicaid.

After those first two years, the state would still need to pay out millions of dollars each year for the program. In the past, Republicans have been against expansion because of the cost.

When asked how to consistently pay for Medicaid expansion some Senators suggested the lottery. Others have said the job creation and health improvements will reap benefits over time.

Alabama’s current Medicaid program covers children, the elderly and those with disabilities for those who fall under certain poverty levels. Alabama Arise Executive Director Robyn Hyden said expanding Medicaid would allow certain low-income adults to have access to health care.

“This is the best deal we’ve ever had,” Hyden said. “This is more money then was previously made available to incentivize expansion.”

Calling it a “massive package,” Maiola said the Alabama Finance Department and Medicaid Agency will need to thoroughly review it before the governor fully weighs in on the issue.

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