Alabama’s healthcare system is floundering. In eight years, 13 of Alabama’s hospitals have closed. Seven of them were in rural areas.
These hospitals simply do not have the funds to operate.
These are hospitals serving some of those who have the greatest need for healthcare.
These hospitals will continue to fail if nothing is done, preventing Alabama citizens, particularly rural citizens, from receiving the healthcare they deserve.
Why are these hospitals failing?
These hospitals were serving Alabama’s poorest — meaning they count on state or federal dollars, through Medicaid, to compensate for the lack of funding from their patients.
But Medicaid in Alabama is deficient. Currently, it only covers children, the elderly, disabled and adults with children who are making 18 percent of the poverty level. Adults without children do not qualify for Medicaid at all.
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Medicaid expansion in Alabama would qualify every adult in Alabama whose income falls within 138 percent of the poverty level.
Expanding to those who receive other types of aid, like SNAP, is logical. Clearly these are the citizens who are experiencing the greatest need for aid in our state.
This expansion, however, comes at an upfront cost of $168 million to the state. But, this pales in comparison to the $2.7 billion benefit in annual economic activity brought to the state because of the expansion, as found by a UAB report.
With a statewide lottery on the horizon, it seems like Medicaid expansion is possible. But, something has to be done right now.
While the lottery could eventually fund this expansion, the implementation of the lottery would take at least three years before it likely saw a return great enough to front the cost of this expansion.
Alabama lawmakers need to do something right now to fund rural healthcare and expand Medicaid before it’s too late.
If this pattern of hospital closures continues, Alabama will not be able to recover, and the lapse between health and those things related to health outcomes — such as education and income — will grow immeasurably.
The poorest in Alabama will suffer drastically.
This is an issue of urgency.
Medicaid expansion cannot wait.
The lottery bill cannot wait — it must pass now, before more programs and state-funded necessities fall to the wayside.
Alabama lawmakers cannot wait — they must act now.
Brytni Emison is a senior in political science and global studies.
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