While children whose parents were at or below the poverty level were covered by Medicaid, many children of the working poor went without health insurance because their parents didn’t have coverage and/or their income was above the maximum amount allowed by Medicaid.
Too many kids were falling through the cracks. Many medical conditions don’t have lasting effects if they are addressed by regular doctor visits. However, without health insurance, many parents were faced with either paying the rent or taking little Susie to the doctor.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, was created to address this crisis at the state level. It encouraged states to create health insurance programs to meet this need.
With its ALL KIDS program, Alabama was an early adapter. In early 1998, Alabama was the first state to approve a Children’s Health Insurance Program. Our speed paid off, as more Alabama children received health insurance and the federal government granted the state bonus money for getting with a program that benefited everyone.
Fifteen years later, Gov. Robert Bentley has chosen a different route when it comes to applying federal dollars to provide health insurance to more Alabamians.
A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to expand their Medicaid programs so that more of the uninsured are covered. The incentives are weighted heavily in the states’ favor. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the feds pick up 100 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid. In 2017, a state would pick up 5 percent of the cost while the federal government would carry the other 95 percent. The states’ share would gradually increase until 2020, when states pick up 10 percent and the feds pick up the other 90.
How does that work out in dollars and cents? According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Alabama would spend $771 million through 2020 while the feds will spend almost $12 billion over that same amount of time.
Who would benefit? An estimated 397,000 Alabama residents currently without insurance would qualify for expanded Medicaid.
That is, to put it bluntly, a lot of money being left on the table by the ideologues running Alabama.
Gov. Robert Bentley is no friend of Obamacare. He has called it the worst legislation ever passed by Congress. He and many other Republican governors have opted to not take advantage of Medicaid expansion.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled on behalf of Obamacare. Barack Obama won a second term in the White House in 2012. These two facts guarantee Obamacare is here to stay. Despite this, Bentley and 19 other governors are pretending that the ACA will somehow magically disappear if they ignore it. It won’t, and neither will the millions of uninsured residents in those states.
We will pay for this lack of judgment for a very long time.
The countless kids who grew up with health insurance courtesy of ALL KIDS can thank their lucky stars that they came up during a time when leaders in Alabama put the well-being of their constituents ahead of rigid ideology.