Alabama residents protested in front of the Capitol on Saturday to demand that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) expand the state’s Medicaid program. The move would provide health insurance coverage to 200,000 low-income residents who fall into a coverage gap in the Affordable Care Act.
More than 40 organizations under the umbrella group Save OurSelves: A Movement for Justice and Democracy, or SOS “presented 13,653 signatures to the Capitol doorstep in a coffin carried by six pallbearers,” the Montgomery Advertiser reports. Individuals told personal stories of waiting years to access coverage, with some eventually dying from lack of health care. A recent study conducted by Harvard researchers estimated that as many as 17,000 people will die directly as a result of their states refusing to expand Medicaid.
“It’s really not about Republican or Democrat, it’s not about Washington D.C.,” organizer Sophia Bracy-Harris said. “The people who are here today are putting a face on who the 300,000 people are. They’re people, they are our neighbors, they are our family, and working people in this state.” A spokesperson for Bentley said that the governor still opposes growing the Medicaid program and is instead considering options for reforming it.
If Alabama were to accept Medicaid expansion, the federal government would provide $1 billion in funding, while the state would have to kick in $700 million by 2020. A study from University of Alabama at Birmingham has found that the additional federal spending would generate more than $1.7 billion in new tax revenue and create 24,613 to 51,918 new jobs.
Nearly six million low-income Americans have been left without any access to affordable insurance whatsoever because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for premium tax credits in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. However, momentum for expanding Medicaid has culminated in public protesters across the country. Residents in Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Missouri have been protesting and rallying legislators to implement the provision.