Medicaid Expansion Editorial, May 29, 2014

In most of the primary election campaigns being waged today, derision of Obamacare seems to be the one constant. It's high time for our politicians to move beyond the vitriol and to focus on the realities.

They all seem to agree that the state of Alabama is broke, and that Medicaid is second only to prison maintenance as the major drain on the General Fund Budget. How do the politicians propose to address this problem? All I've heard is to get more people employed so as to get them off of Medicaid and onto employer sponsored health insurance programs. Where are these jobs coming from and what's the plan to get them? Whatever it is, that plan doesn't seem to be working very well.

Alabama's unemployment rate has risen for the third consecutive month to 6.9%. Alabama is the only state in the union with a rate higher than it had a year ago.

A University of Alabama study released in September of 2013 estimates that acceptance of the Medicaid Expansion program under the Affordable Care Act will add $28 billion to Alabama's economy over the 2014-2020 period. This Becker & Morrisey study shows that taxes generated from this federal funds inflow will more that cover the Alabama portion of the additional program costs. The state's current Medicaid costs are shared 50/50 with the Federal Government. Under the ACA expansion, increased costs to the state are zero for the first three years and gradually increase to a maximum of 10% in the year 2020.

It is further estimated that the increased economic activity will create 30,700 new jobs in Alabama. Every sector of employment, from health care to retail, will benefit as an additional $3.9 million per day ripples through Alabama's economy. What could be a more conservative program than one which adds to the coffers of Alabama's state and local governments without taxing our residents?

Most importantly, providing health insurance to 293,000 Alabamians who currently have no health coverage, or any means to pay for it, is neither a liberal approach
nor a conservative one. It's simply the Christian thing to do for our neighbors in need.

Rene Valka

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