Recently, the Dothan Eagle Editorial Board agreed with Gov. Ivey that we should not expand Medicaid “for the sake of it.”

As a practicing physician serving Dothan and the Wiregrass area, I am writing to assure you that expanding Medicaid in Alabama would not simply be “for the sake of it.” Not now. Or ever.

Expanding Medicaid in Alabama would be for the sake of community hospitals struggling to stop the budgetary bleeding from uncompensated emergency room care. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama would be for the sake of the fledging entrepreneur, who after paying their ever-growing expenses, can scarcely afford to write a hefty insurance premium check. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama would be for the sake of hard-working people like the sweet patient I treated during my time at Southeast Health (formerly Southeast Alabama Medical Center), who rejoiced when her kidneys completely ceased to function. She rejoiced aloud at this tragic news because as long as her kidneys functioned, even at a low level, no matter how sickly she became, she could not qualify for Medicaid. If she would have had access to affordable health coverage to manage her chronic condition, we could have saved her from dialysis — and significantly mitigated the cost now being borne by Alabama taxpayers. Preventative medicine not only saves lives, it saves incredible healthcare industry resources and drives down costs for us all.

Let’s look at what we know. According to the Alabama Hospital Association, 88% of our rural hospitals are operating in the red. Since 2011, at least 13 hospitals in our state have closed, seven of those rural. Roughly 223,000 Alabamians are caught in the coverage gap, unable to afford health insurance. Another 120,000 or more are stretching to pay for private or employer-based coverage. And that was before we were faced with a global health crisis, a shuddered economy, and unprecedented unemployment.

While I recognize the current crisis will affect state revenues, I still don’t know many investors who would turn down the opportunity to invest 10 pennies to make a dollar. That’s the deal before us. If we chip in just 10%, the federal government will pay the remaining 90%. Regardless of your ideological predisposition toward Medicaid, it is undeniable that other states are currently benefitting from federal tax dollars paid by Alabamians just like you and me. I say it’s past time for us to join 36 other states in bolstering our healthcare industry, covering our people, creating good healthcare jobs, stabilizing our economy, and bringing our federal tax dollars back home to Alabama. Its past time for us to #CoverAlabama and expand Medicaid — not just “for the sake of it,” but for the sake of Alabama’s health, wealth, and future development.

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Medicaid expansion is vital – Dothan Eagle