The high cost of refusal

Dothan Eagle, Aug. 5, 2014

There are many low-income, uninsured Alabamians who could benefit from expansion of Medicaid to qualify those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal Affordable Care Act allows states to take this step, and 26 states and the District of Columbia have done so.

Alabama has not. And if Gov. Robert Bentley has his way, it will not.

Bentley takes the view that, even though the additional people on Alabama Medicaid rolls would cost the state nothing for three years and only 10 percent of the actual cost after that, the cost is too high.

“Those are your hard-earned tax dollars,” Bentley said in his state of the state speech earlier this year. “Under ObamaCare, Medicaid would grow even larger--bringing millions more people to a state of dependency on government, and saddling our state and our nation--the taxpayers--with the enormous expense.”

One can’t wave away the statistics he cites – a 1,500 percent increase in Medicaid spending nationally since 1980, and the cost of Medicaid in Alabama gobbling up 35 percent of the state’s budget – but there’s also another statistic to consider: 342,000 Alabamians who would have access to Medicaid health coverage if the state would expand the level, according to a recent study by Families USA and Arise Alabama.

The cost of health care is undoubtedly critical, and will continue to rise without some sort of reform. Many have been long convinced that the Affordable Care Act is not the answer and its efficacy remains to be seen.

Despite his best efforts, Gov. Bentley cannot rein in federal spending. Meanwhile, he could make a positive change in the lives of 342,000 Alabamians with the stroke of a pen -- today – and it would not cost Alabama taxpayers a dime for three years and only a dime on the dollar after that.

Shouldn’t the well-being of the people of Alabama be his first concern?

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