Alabama Sen. Doug Jones introduced legislation this week to give a second chance to expand Medicaid to those states that have not yet expanded their programs. The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act would also give these states another opportunity to receive the same levels of federal funding that was offered in 2010.
“Alabama made a mistake by not expanding Medicaid. If I can give them an opportunity to rectify that, I’d like to do it,” Jones said in an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser. “I think it’s important for us to expand Medicaid in the state to help save our rural hospitals, get better health outcomes in those rural areas and to provide an economic boost in the state. Let’s finish this job and move forward, instead of languishing and letting our Medicaid dollars that we already pay go to other states.”
Originally in 2010, there would have been federal funds to cover the full cost of expansion for three years for those states that expanded their Medicaid program, at which time federal coverage would drop to 90 percent and states would cover the rest. Should the SAME Act pass, full funding would be offered for three years before decreasing to 95 percent funding in the fourth year, 94 percent in the fifth and 93 percent in the sixth. Federal coverage would stand at 90 percent every year thereafter.
The Medical Association remains an advocate for not only fully funding Alabama’s Medicaid program but also agrees with expansion of the program. Medicaid is a state-run program providing health coverage for about 23,000 low-income residents. To qualify for current Medicaid coverage, families with children must have a household income at or below 18 percent of the poverty level. Expanding the program would take that threshold up to 138 of percent the poverty level, offering access to as many as 325,000 Alabamians.