Column: Expansion of Medicaid in Alabama


Christine Shelton

In the wake of a global pandemic, people who are not medically insured are at an extreme disadvantage. Honestly, the sensible thing to do would be to expand Medicaid in the state of Alabama because there are too many people who cannot afford to get tested for COVID-19, let alone be admitted if they contract it. With the new strain that has not been fully researched, healthcare coverage is more prominent than ever.

According to the Health Insurance Guide, several people fall in the “gray area” when it comes to affording proper healthcare. Those who fall into this gray area earn too much to utilize Medicaid, but earn too little to be eligible for the Affordable Cares Act. The Medicaid Planning Assistance Organization notes that Alabama’s income limit for regular Medicaid is $814 a month, which is not much considering the cost of living in Alabama is less than the United States’ average cost of living. 

The misconception is that people who make more than $814 are still financially capable of paying for their medical bills and in reality, that is not always the case. Although they meet the financial requirement, some may be susceptible to poverty. People in this gray area may make just enough to pay their bills and feed their families, but if a medical emergency were to happen, their lack of insurance would surely hurt them. If Alabama expands its Medicaid requirements, they are likely to help nearly 300,000 Alabamians. 

“Estimates vary, but 235,000 to 324,000 people in Alabama would gain access to Medicaid if the state were to accept federal funding to expand the program. The federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion, and states pay the other 10 percent,” said Louis Norris, writer for the Health Insurance Guide.

In reality, the expansion of Medicaid starts with the political figures in Alabama and whether they have the best interests of their people at heart. Meanwhile, the state of Alabama is struggling to help uninsured citizens, and the political leaders are claiming that Medicaid expansion is not possible, which unfortunately is putting the majority of their most vulnerable residents (senior citizens) at risk. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has made her stance on expanding hospitals in Alabama clear; she does not see the point in expanding it when it is not necessarily financially responsible. 

“It would be irresponsible to think about expanding Medicaid just for the sake of expanding Medicaid without having a complete and honest discussion about the source of stable funding to pay the match,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said.

While Gov. Ivey makes a great point about Alabama possibly going into debt if they expand Medicaid, she views expanding Medicaid as expanding it “just because,” as if the growing, fatal pandemic is not a good enough reason. Gov. Ivey should, at the very least, consider the thousands of people who will be at a health disadvantage when she refuses to expand. 

Unfortunately, there are adults in Alabama who do not have health coverage. Not to mention, some people have preexisting or underlying conditions, making them the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. Even with the addition of the stimulus money, which is supposed to ultimately help residents in place of their livelihood, it is not nearly enough to cover medical expenses.

Alabama’s Arise is an organization that wants to help aid in this fight as they, too, believe Medicaid expansion in Alabama is necessary, especially during a time like this. One thing this country has failed to do, on several occasions, is provide for low-income Americans. Needless to say, COVID-19 is still infecting thousands of Americans, and now that there is another strain of this virus in the air, everyone must have access to health care.

It has almost been a year since COVID-19 hit America. We still do not know much about this virus, nor if the precautions used are preventing us from contracting it. While we all need to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves, anything can happen. So, it is only right that we are all afforded good healthcare coverage. Medicaid expansion will more than likely strengthen Alabama’s health care system, and this will help the Americans who fall into the coverage gap immensely.