Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D- Birmingham) currently serves on the Senate Healthcare Committee for the Alabama State Senate. Supported by ALAPAC, she assumed her current office in 2006 and previously was a member of the Alabama House of Representatives. She also served as a member of the Birmingham City Council from 1985 to 1997.
What first prompted you to consider running office?
I have always been involved with community from early childhood; this was instilled in me to give back. Starting as a neighborhood officer and trying to help improve the community I lived in, I began to realize that the need was greater than the boundaries of my community.
How does your background help serve you on the Health Committee and also the Legislature?
I have worked mostly in the public sector where the focus was on addressing human needs. My experience in working to help people has been a base to build and helps my perspective on how I perceive issues that come before the legislature and the Health Committee.
What are some of your legislative priorities next session?
Healthcare should be a greater focus and the expansion of Medicaid, so one of my priorities will be utilizing some of the next appropriations of ARPA funds towards this end. Overall, Alabama has done a poor job of filling the gaps relative to providing access to needed resources to address women’s healthcare, postpartum issues, and infant mortality.
What are some health-related issues important to your district and your constituents?
Diabetes, obesity, and food deserts (several communities do not have access to full grocery store where they can purchase healthy foods and fresh fruits and vegetables).
What can be done to alleviate the unnecessary and growing administrative and regulatory burdens and laws being placed on the medical community by insurers and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid?
A lot of this administrative regulations are stressors for those seeking medical care. Doctors must comply, but the added time, and cost does impact service delivery to the patient. Technology has helped to relieve some of the burden but not all. When a patient goes for medical assistance and worry whether they will be helped because they may not meet a criterion, is added stress. I am not a medical professional, but I would start with evidence-based research with proven benefits as a start to alleviating the bureaucracy in this area.
What do you think people understand the least about our health care system?
What they are eligible for.
If you could change anything about our state’s health care system, what would it be?
Expand Medicaid and make it accessible statewide through current county health centers located in most counties.
Do you have a position on the expansion of Medicaid?
Yes, Alabama should expand Medicaid. Fallowed incentives enabled many states that took advantage of this and expanded access to healthcare for its residents. There is nothing more important than the state of healthcare of the citizens of Alabama. Our economy is only as healthy as the health status of our residents. Even the recruitment of jobs and industry takes backseat, because the goal is providing job opportunities for our residents who must be in good health to take advantage of the jobs.
How can the Medical Association – and physicians statewide – help you address Alabama’s health challenges?
The Medical Association and physicians have the knowledge and connections to address many issues. The state spent millions trying to address healthcare disparities with trying to establish “Regional Health Centers.” We need to involve those in the field of medicine more, because they have access to statistics, studies, cutting edge trends and evidence -based programs that work. Also, we cannot be limited by practices just in our country. There are many best practices we can learn from medical professionals in other countries. Gov. Ivey said we must find Alabama solutions to Alabama’s problems. I agree, but we can also learn and borrow from the successes of others. We may end up with a hybrid that fits Alabama’s needs.
What is the one thing you would like to say to physicians in your district?
We need your help. As legislators, we are not the professional in the medical arena. We try to respond to citizens who contact us for help, but we don’t always understand the process of service delivery and what that involves.