It’s been a busy winter already—flu season is in full force, and that means I have a little less time to get to blogging. I do want you to know about an important upcoming event.
Our state NAACP chapter is having a rally next week, Saturday January 12, from 12 to 2 pm on the steps of our Capitol building in Montgomery, to support healthcare reform. I understand there are plans for an ongoing effort to move our state forward, especially around the Medicaid Expansion—let’s ALL show up next Saturday. The bigger the crowd, the more press and legislative impact we can make! I’m supposed to be in a marathon all-day board meeting in Prattville, but I’m going to slip out for a bit to participate as one of the speakers. Maybe someone will write me a doctor’s excuse?
I’ve written previously about the Expansion—in a nutshell, it would extend Medicaid benefits to adults below 133% of the federal poverty level. There is nothing in the ACA to help them otherwise—over 100% of poverty, they are eligible for subsidies on the Exchange, but they may not be able to afford the premiums and cost-sharing required. I tried looking up the exact amounts on the Kaiser calculator but it automatically puts anyone under 133% of poverty on Medicaid. I guess the people at Kaiser are so reasonable that they couldn’t imagine a state refusing the funds. When I enter a 27 year old single person making 16K pre-tax a year, 139% of poverty, it tells me he would pay $537 over a year for premiums—not too bad. But cost-sharing (co-pays and deductibles) is capped at $2083, in addition to the premiums. I doubt that 27 year old has 2K in a savings account. He might have an insurance card he can’t afford to use.
If you are at 100% of poverty or below, you will have NO access to subsidies on the Exchange. So it is the Medicaid Expansion or nothing. Let’s say you are a 27 year old single mother of 3. Or, for those who will get caught up worrying about whether a 27 year old single woman with low income “should” have 3 children, let’s make it easier and say you are a 27 year old widowed mother of 3. You could work more than 60 hrs a week at minimum wage and still be below the 100% poverty level! You could get Medicaid for your children, but for you—nothing. I see this in my office every day. Hardworking parents or even grandparents raising children, who can’t get health insurance. Many of them know they have untreated high blood pressure, untreated asthma, untreated diabetes—all their resources go into doing everything they can for the children. Wouldn’t you do the same? Sadly, many will die early from the long-term effects of these illnesses.
Governor Bentley says we can’t afford to do right by them, but he is wrong. Ask him why we can afford to hand out subsidy after subsidy to big businesses as “incentives” to employ people at wages or hours too low to get insurance. They are increasing our healthcare costs, but somehow we can still afford to give them welfare.
Medicaid should not be the end of our work—we need badly to proceed with efforts to get Medicare for All. But it’s the least we can do for people who are currently without any other option. There is no deadline on accepting the Expansion. The earliest we can start is January 2014, only a year from now. If we wait, we can still do it but would miss some of the 3 year period of 100% federal funding. Why should our fellow Alabamians have to wait a single day longer than needed to get healthcare? Why should Alabama miss out on any of that money? I’ve heard through the grapevine our Governor is worried about doing the Expansion before the 2014 primaries—let’s show him that if he doesn’t do it on time, he shouldn’t even bother entering the primaries at all. If we can’t convince him not to put his political ambitions ahead of human life, maybe we can at least make our lives fit his ambitions.
I asked Benard Simelton, President of Alabama’s NAACP, to give me a few words. He said, “When it comes to affordable healthcare, we must do all that we can to provide health care to everyone. It should not be just for those who have a certain income but for every human being regardless of circumstances… You would think that the Governor, being a physician himself, would appeal to the Hippocratic Oath he took when he became a doctor. There is a passage in the modern version of the oath that states ‘I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.’ Where is the warmth and sympathy and understanding in the Governor's refusal to provide health care for people in Alabama, especially since the Federal Government will pay for the vast majority of it? There is another passage that states, ‘I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.’ Governor Bentley, show that special obligation to all your fellow human beings so that those who are infirm because either they can't afford or don't have a job can have access to affordable health care...live up to your oath.”
I agree. Please let’s show folks in Montgomery we stand up for each other. Get your carpools together—I hope to see you there!