Category: Health Care

Will Alabama and Mississippi Expand Medicaid to Low-Income Adults This Time Around?

WBHM

After a fire destroyed their last apartment in 2019, Kenneth Tyrone King and his family recently saved up enough money to rent a new place in Birmingham.

But the relief was short-lived. Bills, mostly medical, quickly began piling up at the new address.

For King, 57, this was just the latest development in a cycle of debt. He has not had health insurance for years. He lost his most-recent job at a temp agency after having emergency open heart surgery in December. He barely has enough money for the two prescriptions that he needs each month.

“I can afford one of them, but one of them, it’s like a $60 medication,” King said. “Those types of challenges, if I had affordable health care, or a health care plan, it would have at least covered some of it.”

King falls in the coverage gap. He does not qualify for Medicaid and he cannot afford to buy a private insurance plan. If Alabama expanded Medicaid, that would mean opening up eligibility to people like him and other low-income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which equates to less than $18,000 a year for a single adult. Read more.

Don’t Let Fear of COVID Open the Door to Breast Cancer, Officials Warn

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson hosted a press conference Wednesday to bring attention to breast cancer and the need — despite the pandemic — for persons to be tested for this disease.

The event was a reminder that fear of COVID-19 or the vaccines created to fend it off should not be reasons to forego a mammogram.

“The coronavirus and breast cancer both are potentially deadly diseases,” said registered nurse Josie Dukes-Bland. “But you do not have to choose one over the other when it comes to treatment and diagnosis.” Read more.

Increased Federal Funding Renews Medicaid Expansion Push

MONTGOMERY — The newest federal coronavirus relief bill’s enactment has renewed calls to expand Alabama’s Medicaid program.

According to early estimates, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 could mean an additional $940 million over a two-year span for the Alabama Medicaid Agency if it were to expand. That’s enough to exceed the full state cost of expanding the program for at least four years, supporters and policy groups say. Read more.

COVID Vaccinations Begin for People 75+ Years Old

Jerry Drummonds’ only mistake in his Monday trip to the Jefferson County Department of Health was his fashion choice.

The long-sleeved blue checkered shirt he wore just didn’t match the COVID-19 vaccine he was getting.

“I had to take off my shirt because we couldn’t roll it up high enough to get to the meaty part of my shoulder,” the 83-year-old said. “And I don’t have that much meat.”

The Vestavia Hills resident was among hundreds of persons – mostly seniors – who came to a pair of health department venues to get vaccinated for the virus. The vaccine also was administered at Gardendale High School.

Monday was the first day of Stage 1b for vaccine distribution, which allows anyone 75 and older to get the shot. Stage 1a also still is in progress. It allows frontline workers, first responders and persons living in congregate settings, including homeless shelters and group homes, to be vaccinated.

The Jefferson County Department of Health is administering vaccines at its location on Southside and at other varying locations for people who are 75 and older, as well as those who fell into Stage 1a. Read on for information about how to get a vaccine.

Also Read:

Frustration Grows With Alabama’s Slow Vaccine Rollout

Hotels, Recovery Rooms and Waiting Rooms Pressed Into Service as UAB’s Patient Load Rises

UAB Hospital is taking extraordinary steps to continue caring for all of its patients as it deals with an onslaught of COVID-19 cases.
Recovery rooms, normally used for just a few hours after a patient has had a procedure, now are being used for care overnight and sometimes for two nights. For patients who normally would stay a night for observation after a procedure, UAB is using rooms in hotels near the hospital.

An emergency room waiting area has been set aside to hold 10 stretchers with COVID-positive patients needing emergency treatment.

“You have to be very creative and look for safe, appropriate space to take care of patients that, under normal times, you wouldn’t make that choice,” Hospital CEO Anthony Patterson said in a press conference Wednesday. “What happens when you completely run out of space? We haven’t hit that point yet, and I think that’s the one thing that we are all fearful of in terms of increasing numbers of patients coming to the hospital. … Hopefully that will not happen.” Read more.

‘Oh My God!’ Alabama Running Out of ICU Beds, and the Christmas Rush Hasn’t Even Begun

Dr. Don Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, spoke Monday while he was scrolling through a spreadsheet with the latest data from member hospitals. When he got to the section showing how many intensive care unit beds were still available for use, Williamson’s reaction was telling.

“Yesterday we had 118 available ICU beds,” he said. “Today, we have — oh my God! — we have only 5% of available ICU beds, 89. That’s the second-lowest ever.”

That number is a red flag that tells Williamson and other public health officials across the state that the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching a crisis point, and the situation is likely to get worse during the next couple of weeks. Hospitals still are dealing with the influx of patients who contracted the coronavirus over the end of the Thanksgiving period or in early December. The anticipated rush from Christmas and New Year’s is yet to come, and that could place tremendous pressure on a health care system that is already perilously close to a breaking point.

“My greatest problem is to get my head around the reality that what I’m seeing now has nothing to do with Christmas,” Williamson said. “You can predict that roughly 10 to 12 days after somebody gets infected, about 12% of that group is going to be hospitalized. We’re not at 12 days yet back to Christmas. … We won’t deal with that surge until next week.” Read more.

UAB Launches First Uterus Transplant Program in Southeast

Doctors estimate that worldwide, hundreds of thousands of women cannot get pregnant because they either do not have a uterus or they have one that does not function properly. For some, uterine transplantation provides an option to bear children. UAB Hospital announced last week it would begin offering this procedure, making it the first program in the Southeast and the only institution in the nation to offer uterus transplants outside of a clinical trial. Read more.