A shortfall of $85 million to support Medicaid in Alabama next year could leave hundreds of thousands of residents – primarily seniors, people with disabilities and kids – without access to health care, and grassroots advocates are taking steps to make sure state lawmakers are aware of how cuts would affect people.
Advocates with Alabama Arise and Alabama Children First have launched the #IamMedicaid campaign online and on social media to draw attention to the faces and voices of the estimated 1 million state residents covered by Medicaid. Half of those 1 million residents are kids, advocates said, who also estimate that hundreds of thousands of residents would be hurt by cuts.
Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance program for working families and individuals. Among the people participating in the campaign is a Shelby County resident who shared this message: “I am autistic and have a life-threatening immune deficiency and mast cell disease. Medicaid allows me the ability to afford my medicines.”
“Alabama’s Medicaid debate is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about people,” Kimble Forrister, state coordinator for Alabama Arise, said in a statement.
Alabama lawmakers are holding hearings this week about Medicaid, according to The Associated Press. Earlier this month, they gave final approval to a 2017 budget of $700 million, though Gov. Robert Bentley backed $785 million in spending to support Medicaid, the news organization reported.
Alabama state House Speaker Mike Hubbard is among the lawmakers who has questions about Medicaid.
“We’ve funded Medicaid at the expense of everything else. We can’t do pay raises for state employees. I think we’re just to the point, it’s probably a healthy thing for them to look, ‘OK, here’s the money we have. Let’s figure out to live within it,” he told The Associated Press.
For residents, Medicaid health care cuts would be painful, advocates said, citing the loss of outpatient dialysis and other services if $85 million is not secured.
“Without new revenue to maintain current service levels, Medicaid also will make deep cuts in its payments to doctors and other providers. Those cuts could result in the closures of many hospitals and clinics, reducing health care access for families across the state,” Alabama Arise and Alabama Children First said in a statement.
“So many times, we get caught up in the numbers, and we forget those numbers represent real people with real lives and that they deal with real challenges,” Christy Cain, Alabama Children First executive director, said in a statement.