Panel to discuss Medicaid expansion Feb. 7
by Emily McLain
Jan 23, 2014 | 1295 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SYLACAUGA – A panel of speakers will make the case for Medicaid expansion in Alabama at an event Feb. 7.

The nonpartisan panel will “present factual information” and explain the possible economic impact for Alabamians if Medicaid is not expanded, according to a press release from event coordinator Stephanie Engle.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held at J. Craig Smith Community Center from 5 until 7:30 p.m. followed by a reception.

Event speakers include:

O Dr. David Becker, associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-author of “An Economic Evaluation of Medicaid Expansion in Alabama”

O Demetricus Johnson, regional outreach specialist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

O Jim Carnes, director of communications for Alabama Arise

O Glenn C. Sisk, CEO of Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga

O Joel Taylor, CEO of Citizens Baptist Medical Center in Talladega

O Bill Hawkins, AARP associate state director for advocacy and outreach

Engle said it is important for Alabama residents to connect the dots about what Medicaid expansion could mean for the state.

“Hospitals are mandated by law to treat ill and injured patients regardless of their financial status,” Engle said. “If Medicaid is not expanded, Alabama’s working class families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay marketplace premiums will fall into a gap. They will have zero healthcare options except to utilize emergency room services at their local hospitals.

“Without reimbursement via Medicaid expansion, hospitals may falter financially under the weight of treating Medicaid-gap patients, creating a domino effect, coercing hospital administrators to make financial adjustments as margins shrink. Staff layoffs would likely follow, and eventually, some communities could lose medical services altogether.”

The press release cites a Jan. 16 editorial in The Daily Home titled “Hospitals need Medicaid expansion.” The editorial noted that “several hospitals in the state have already closed, illustrating the fragile state of the business.”

Sisk explained why he believes the state needs Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Robert Bentley has refused, at a Community Links event held Jan.12 at B.B. Comer Library.

“The decision to not expand Medicaid was driven because of political initiatives, not because of what’s best for this state,” he said.

According to Sisk’s presentation, expansion of the program could mean medical coverage for an estimated 300,000 more Alabamians, creation of more than 30,000 jobs and an economic impact of $28 billion over six years. It also means keeping tax dollars used to support nationwide expansion in the state, he said.

“If Alabama doesn’t expand its program, that means $11.7 million from your pocket and my pocket will support Medicaid expansion in New York, California, New Mexico and states that have made the decision to expand,” Sisk said.

The expansion would cost $777 million between now and 2020, he said, and the federal government would pay 100 percent of expansion costs for the first three years, reducing the amount to 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter.

An economic impact study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health showed the additional taxes generated from the federal influx of dollars would more than cover the state’s cost of expansion, Sisk said.

For more information on the upcoming panel discussion, contact Engle at englestephanie@ymail.com.

Contact Emily McLain at eadams@dailyhome.com.