Speaker’s Stand: The need for Medicaid expansion
by M.J. Ellington
Special to The Star
Mar 29, 2013 | 4077 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As politicians in Alabama and Washington continue to argue over budgets and debt, Alabamians continue to question how the state would pay for opening the Medicaid program to more needy citizens. They can find objective answers in a November 2012 study by UAB economists David Becker and Michael Morrisey.

The study showed the positive financial impact of Medicaid expansion on Alabama — purely in numbers — and not in the heart-wrenching stories that do-gooder advocates like me often tell. The study for the UAB School of Public Health estimates just under 300,000 Alabamians would sign up for Medicaid if the program expanded to include people with income up to 133 percent of federal poverty level.

To pay the estimated $12.5 billion needed to provide their care from 2014 to 2020, the state would contribute $771 million. For that investment, Alabama would see a net gain in state tax revenues of $935 million during the period. Becker and Morrisey also estimated Alabama communities and businesses would see $20 billion in increased economic activity as a result of the greater demand for health-care providers and services from 2014 to 2020.

Also expected, but not figured into the UAB study, are the potential savings from reduced spending for uncompensated care, mental health care and other health-related expenses. These hidden costs are absorbed by the state and health providers, and Alabamians with private health insurance pay for them through higher premiums and co-pays.

There are good humanitarian reasons for advocates to urge Medicaid expansion. Alabama families with income above 11 percent of federal level — just $200 per month for a family of four — make too much to qualify for Alabama Medicaid.

But putting aside the heartrending choices that people in poverty often face when they need health care, the UAB study presents number-crunching solutions that the numbers-oriented Alabamians should read.

M.J. Ellington is a health policy analyst for Arise Citizens’ Policy Project. Access the study in the “Health care reform resources” section of the Alabama Arise website: www.arisecitizens.org.
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Speaker’s Stand: The need for Medicaid expansion by M.J. Ellington
Special to The Star

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