Alabama’s Medicaid enrollment has continued record growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing federal requirement that people can’t be removed from the rolls.
But the state also got extra money from the federal government and, for now, the program is costing the state less than it did before. However, at least one lawmaker is concerned costs could begin to rise, and the state is working now on projections for next year’s budget. Read more.
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.
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.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Democrats hope their support of Gov. Kay Ivey’s gas tax increase got them further on possible Medicaid expansion, but legislative leaders last week said expansion can’t happen without new money.
“There is no plan to feasibly make it work,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, said Friday. He’s chairman of the Senate General Fund committee.
Ivey met with many Democrats in the past two weeks as she drummed up support for the 10-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase that takes effect this fall. Democrats used those conversations to again push expansion, as they’ve done since 2012. This year, the calls for expansion seem louder, in part driven by the Alabama Hospital Association. Alabama is one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Thirteen Alabama hospitals, including seven rural ones, have closed since 2011. Another closure was announced last month. Read more.
Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, is sponsoring a bill that would incentivize states such as Alabama to expand Medicaid.
The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion Act would provide states that choose to expand Medicaid after 2014 the same level of federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.
In an interview with Alabama Daily News, Jones said he hopes this bill will incentivize states such as Alabama that haven’t expanded Medicaid to do so soon.
“Even though I can’t vote to expand Medicaid, I can do things that I hope will give the states the incentive to expand Medicaid because I truly believe it’s in the state’s interest and the people of the state’s interest,” Jones said. Read more.
Alabama’s unemployment rate hit record lows in the past year, falling below 4 percent, but the number of people enrolled in Medicaid hasn’t decreased.
Medicaid, the health care provider for the state’s poor and disabled, has higher enrollment now than when the unemployment rate hit nearly 12 percent in 2009. September enrollment was up slightly this year compared to September 2017.
While more people are working, not all of them are in jobs that pay enough to get their families off Medicaid, advocates say.
Medicaid’s enrollment is troubling to state lawmakers, who’ve been advised that the way to curtail Medicaid’s ever-expanding cost is to get more Alabamians employed.
“It’s a large concern, why the rolls aren’t shrinking as people get into the workforce,” state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said recently. “I remember being told that as unemployment falls, so would Medicaid enrollment.” Read more.
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has introduced a bill that would require a federal agency to show how much states such as Alabama have left on the table by refusing to expand Medicaid.
The Smart Choices Act would mandate that the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, or MACPAC, annually publish reports showing how much states receive under expanded Medicaid. In particular, the reports would show how much the states that refused expansion under the Affordable Care Act would have gotten if they had joined the program. Read more.