(Brenda Boman) - The Bible reports many incidents where Jesus healed people of their afflictions. But never once is Jesus reported to have asked the question, “Does this person deserve good health?”
Alabama has approximately 342,000 adults without health insurance because our governor has not accepted the Medicaid expansion offered by the federal government. A recent report identified 185,000 of them as working adults who are employed in low-paying jobs. They don’t qualify for our current Medicaid because they make too much money, but they make too little to qualify for premium subsidies through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
In fact, Alabama’s current Medicaid program is so limited, very few able-bodied adults can qualify. Those without children don’t qualify at all. Those with children qualify only if they make a very meager income that is impossible to live on. Children are covered through the ALLKids program. They deserve good health, but they also need and deserve to have healthy parents.
Many adults working low-paying jobs are limited to less than 35 hours a week so that employers don’t have to provide benefits. If they are so lucky as to regularly get 35 hours of work every week, at $8.00 an hour, this comes to $14,560 a year, far too much to be eligible for Medicaid in Alabama but not enough for a single parent to qualify for subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
These working adults are caught in the gap between our current Medicaid requirements and access to affordable insurance.
The federal government is offering to fully fund Medicaid expansion to close this coverage gap for years 2014-2016. This program would return something of immeasurable value to the people of Alabama in exchange for the federal taxes we already pay — access to quality healthcare for all. Starting in 2017, the Alabama state government would be required to pick up a small percentage of the cost, gradually increasing to 10% in 2020, still a bargain investment for something as essential to the welfare of our people as good health. Additionally, studies have indicated the expanded coverage would create 25-30,000 new jobs, boosting the economy in general and adding revenue to the state coffers.
This is what the Book of Discipline says on the matter: “Providing the care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril.” (Para. 162, V)
The 2014 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference approved a resolution calling for expanded healthcare coverage for low-income Alabamians. Governor Bentley has the authority to make this decision. I encourage all members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to contact Governor Bentley and ask him to accept the Medicaid expansion offered by the federal government. It’s time that all Alabamians have access to affordable healthcare.