Blowing off Medicaid’ billboards make statement on Red Mountain Expressway

The Birmingham News, June 4, 2014

Those blowing by in their cars on the Red Mountain Expressway can see a new digital message on a billboard that says something about "Blowing off Medicaid Expansion."

The full message: "Blowing off Medicaid Expansion Blows our Billions to Other States."

On the other side, with Vulcan in the background, the rotating message says: "Blowing off Medical Expansion Destroys 20,000 jobs and 562 lives."

Someone clearly wants Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to change his mind about turning down those federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

That someone, or rather someones, are Doug Hoffman, a retired finance director at Children's of Alabama who became an Affordable Care Act navigator, and his wife, Pat Vandermeer, a retired Southern Progress executive.

"There's just so much at stake," Hoffman said. "I think it's the moral and economic issue of our time right here in Alabama."

"As a navigator I've had to hear countless stories of people who fell into the Medicaid gap - income just below the Affordable Care Act qualification and too much to qualify for Medicaid. There were countless examples of a single working Mom making $8 and hour with two kids who could not get health insurance because the poverty level for a family of three is $19,600.  I could go on about these examples but instead have decided to create a grassroots organization called Engage Alabama to start a statewide billboard campaign to expand Medicaid."

The numbers Hoffman is using are backed by studies, he says. For example the destroyed "562 lives" comes from a study by Health Affairs estimating how many people will die every year as a consequence of not having Medicaid coverage under an expansion.

The governor has decided to reject federal funding under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid coverage to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The decision leaves a coverage gap where there are between 181,000 and 300,000 residents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but are too poor to qualify for insurance subsidies.

The current billboard messages are paid for two weeks, but Hoffman hopes to add to that time and expand with billboards on Interstate 65 from Huntsville to Mobile.

Hoffman said and the billboard campaign are not connected to, the California group that several months ago started a billboard campaign pushing for Medicaid expansion in several states, including Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Hoffman said more information is on his website

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