MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Expanding Medicaid is a hot topic in Alabama politics, and a topic U.S. Senator Doug Jones spoke about during his visit in Montgomery Friday.
Alabama has not expanded Medicaid and Sen. Jones advocated for that to change.
"I'm unabashed by the fact that I wish we'd expanded Medicaid in the state when we had the opportunity," Jones said. "I believe it was not done purely for political reasons and we've lost literally billions of dollars in this state. Not to mention the health care concerns of so many of our Alabamians."
He said expanding Medicaid would help relieve some burdens for hospitals in rural areas.
"And it's a problem not just for those that need the insurance," he said. "It's a problem for people that live near those rural hospitals that are not on Medicaid that may see that hospital close."
Alexander City laid off people earlier in August. Mayor Jim Nabors said then one reason he believes the hospital is struggling is because the state has not expanded Medicaid.
"We're suffering of lack of reimbursement with Medicaid patients," Nabors said.
Sen. Trip Pittman, R- Baldwin County, does not want to expand Medicaid and said rural hospitals are not the only entities affected. He said rural schools, farms and businesses are also impacted.
"You can't stop migration," Pittman said. "And people will go to cities and will go to places that have better services. To some degree it is inevitable."
There were 1,021,657 people enrolled in Medicaid in June of 2018. The Kaiser Family Foundation said 34 states, including the District of Columbia, have expanded Medicaid.
Gov. Kay Ivey does not want to expand Medicaid and posed a question.
"How are you going to pay for it? We have a hard time paying for what we've got now," Ivey said.
Pittman is the chairman of the Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. He said to expand Medicaid, the state government would need more revenue.
"It's gonna cost us $100 million at a minimum to expand Medicaid, and we can't deficit spend in the state of Alabama," Pittman said.