Editorial: Look around, governor — There are many examples of states expanding Medicaid their way

Anniston Star Editorial Board, April 17, 2014

Opponents of Gov. Robert Bentley’s ironclad refusal to expand Medicaid in Alabama have tried logic, reasoning, emotional requests and biblical pleas, and nothing has worked. Bentley, like any good ideologue, isn’t budging.

Alabama deserves better.

So let’s try this.

Bentley should look at the states that have won federal approval to use funds from an expanded Medicaid for alternative programs. Michigan and Iowa would be good places to start. Michigan’s program, dubbed Healthy Michigan, promotes cost-sharing among beneficiaries and gives incentives for healthy behaviors to those it insures. Iowa’s plan, which allows low-income residents to choose between managed-care policies, also provides incentives for residents to monitor their health.

Bentley should look at Arkansas, one of the Southern states you’d think would have a Bentleyesque opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion program. But Arkansas, according to The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, is the first state to receive a federal waiver so it can use Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low-income residents.

Bentley should look at Tennessee, where Gov. Bill Haslam is negotiating with Washington for his own version of Arkansas’ deal.

And, Bentley should look at the latest data from Gallup and The Washington Post, who report that states with expanded Medicaid programs are enjoying significantly larger drops in their number of uninsured residents.

We’ll grant you that Americans may be on data-overload about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. Surveys with conflicting information are commonplace, so buyer beware. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s Gallup survey is the strongest nonpartisan data to emerge that shows overwhelming gains for states that expand Medicaid.

According to Gallup, states that set up their insurance exchanges and expanded their Medicaid programs reduced their uninsured numbers three times faster than states that refused to do so. (The data was from the first quarter of 2014.) Collectively, anti-expansion states saw a 0.8 percent reduction; the states that took advantage of the federal funds for expansion had a 2.5 percent change.

Each state has its own challenges and needs; few are alike. With its Republican-dominated Statehouse and cost-cutting mentality, Alabama isn’t Michigan or Iowa or Arkansas. But the state and its governor are on the wrong side of this equation. The data are clear.

Expanding Medicaid helps those who live on the fiscal margins of our society.

“We think (Bentley’s decision) is just indefensible,” Jim Carnes, Policy Director at Alabama Arise, has told National Public Radio. “That a state with as many health challenges and as many low income people as Alabama is leaving those folks in the cold.”

Bentley, Alabama’s unrepentant governor, has chosen ideology over assistance. If he’d gaze around, he’d see what he’s missing.


 

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