Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise, the state's preeminent advocacy group for low-income residents, has a different viewpoint about our state's low unemployment rate.

In a recent op-ed concerning Medicaid expansion, she writes:

"We’ve heard a lot recently about Alabama’s low unemployment rate. At 3.9 percent, we’re doing well, on par with the national average. But that’s not the whole story. Our state’s labor force participation rate for civilians ages 16 and older is the fourth lowest in the country. At 57.5 percent, Alabama’s rate is ahead of only Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia."

The larger point Hyden makes is that Alabama's workforce development is particularly poor for younger residents, which makes Medicaid expansion even more critical. And why? Because health insurance is tied to employment, and states that expand Medicaid not only provide more insurance coverage to thousands of people who need it, but they also boost the state's economy.

She writes:

"How can Alabama increase labor force participation and boost its economy? Expand Medicaid to cover those trapped in the state’s coverage gap. With the right set of early interventions, at least some workers who suffer from untreated and debilitating conditions could remain on the job ...

"Those words reflect what I’ve heard repeatedly across our state. Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians could join the workforce if they were healthy. But Alabama’s underinvestment in work supports has left them struggling to make ends meet and unable to access health care." 

-- Phillip Tutor