Medicaid expansion subject of Feb. 27 forum

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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Imagine you have a medical emergency and the closest hospital is an hour or more away.
That could be the case in the future if hospitals continue to lose funds with growing expenses mounting day by day.
Last week, a group of healthcare providers and advocates gathered to plan for a public presentation supporting the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama. That expansion would be a financial benefit to healthcare facilities to assist with funding for expenses associated with providing care for uninsured patients.
Dr. Marsha Raulerson, a local pedicatrician, said the need for Medicaid expansion is evident with the high numbers of uncompensated medical care in Brewton.
“Our ER provides a lot of uncompensated care,” Raulerson said. “They take care of immediate needs, but when those patients can’t afford their medications, they end up back at the ER.”
Raulerson continued by providing some cases she has seen in her years providing care to minors.
“We have 54 percent of our children on healthcare through Medicaid and AllKids,” Raulerson said. “But, when they turn 19 they lose that insurance. What happens to them then?”
Expanding Medicaid in Alabama would be financially beneficial for the entire State and would result in a significant economic impact, according to information released by the Public Affairs Council of Alabama. In the report, PARCA said the expansion would yield a $2.38 billion savings for the state while generating an annual economic impact of $1.89 billion. Through the expansion, the state would save almost $400 million per year which, the report states, would be more tan enough to cover the cost of the expansion. The impact would also be seen with more than 20,000 new jobs.
Alabama is one of only 11 states that have not chosen to expand Medicaid.
Local Pharmacist Danny Cottrell said he sees no reason not to expand the progeram.
“This is important to everyone,” Cottrell said. “When someone comes into the hospital without insurance, you (the hospital) only gets five cents on the dollar — if that.”
That means the hospitals are left to absorb the additional costs with no compensation, he said.
A planned public meeting set for Feb. 27 will give the public information on the importance of supporting expanding Medicaid in Alabama.
Alabama Arise, a group dedicated to advancing public polices to improve the lives of Alabamians, is working with local healthcare providers and government officials to move forward with supporting the Medicaid expansion.
Presdelane Harris, an orgnizing director with Alabama Arise, said the upcoming meeting will be providing details on the benefits of Medicaid expansion in the state.
“The pandemic helped underscore our reasons for needing this,” Harris said. “There are ways to pay for the expansion and most folks in the state are in support of the expansion.”
According to information provided by Harris, more than 70 percent of voters are in support of the expansion with more than 65 percent of those polled being Republicans. Less than 18 percent of Alabamians oppose the expansion.
By expanding Medicaid in the state, hospitals will be able to stay aflot in many rural areas — including Brewton and Atmore. Expansion will also provide thousands of working people in the state with health care coverage that they need, while adding jobs to our economy.
Harris provided information that shows That there would be a 54 percent reduction in uninsured adults in Escambia County if the expansion is approved. Currently, there are nearly 3,500 adults in Escambia County who have no healthcare insurance. As many as 1,890 of those adults would be eligible for health insurance under expanded Medicaid.
Last year, Escambia County area hospitals provided nearly $18 million in uncompensated care.
Harris also provided data on how the increasing medical care expenses are impacting facilities across the state.
This year, a family of three must make less than $4,475 per year to qualify for medicaid and must make at least $24,869 to qualify for private insurance. The gap where a family cannot qualify for public or private insurance needs to be filled, and, Harris said, Medicaid would close that gap for many across the state.
The planned meeting is open to the public and will be presented by local healthcare providers, hospital administrators and representatives of Alabama Arise. Expected to be on hand will be state representatives and senators.
The meeting will be in the education center at D.W. McMillan Hospital on Douglas Avenue beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27. For more information, call Alabama Arise at 800-832-9060.