Experts say Medicaid expansion is feasible in Alabama

Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:04 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey and 25 other Republican governors want President Joe Biden to end the COVID-19 public health emergency. In a letter to the president, the governors cite the increasing cost of Medicaid. They claim the increasing cost is caused by the expanded eligibility allowing more people to take part in Medicaid.

Part of that letter says, “The PHE is negatively affecting states, primarily by artificially growing our population covered under Medicaid.”

Debbie Smith is the campaign director for Cover Alabama, an organization dedicated to closing the coverage gap. She said, “We actually disagree that it’s been a drain on the budget. If they kept people on continuous Medicaid coverage, then they would get the federal government to pay more for those individuals to be on there.”

The letter continues, “States are required to increase our non-federal match to adequately cover all enrollees and cannot disenroll members from the program unless they do so voluntarily.

“Hopefully we can come up with some answers for Medicare and Medicaid in the very near future, along with social security,” said U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

The spending bill before congress would end the public health emergency in April. An estimated 61,000 Alabamians would lose coverage.

Ryan Hankins with the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama did a study on the economic impact of expanding Medicaid in Alabama. He said, “The state would actually save money or be able to reallocate how dollars are currently spent, making the cost of expansion really a moot point for at least the first six years. Beginning in year seven, roughly, the state would see some increases in expenses.”

Ivey’s communications director says her position on expanding Medicaid hasn’t changed, saying, “Ensuring every Alabamian has access to quality health care is important to the governor, but she is concerned for how the state will afford it long-term.”

“Other conservative states have expanded,” said Hankins. “And what they have seen is increases in labor force participation, increases in employment rate, increases in their tax collection.”

Hankins estimates Medicaid expansion would cost Alabama about $225 million a year.

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