WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – To combat the coronavirus crisis, Democrats in Congress want states to expand their Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Fourteen states have yet to do so, including Alabama.
“The thing that this pandemic has really brought home to people is that our health is dependent on our neighbor’s health more than we like to have thought about in the past,” said Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL.
Nearly 8 million Americans would gain coverage.
Jones argues Medicaid expansion would not only improve the healthcare system, but also the economy.
“Overwhelmingly, the folks that would benefit from Medicaid expansion are hard-working people in Alabama,” Jones said. “They just don’t make enough to really afford good healthcare insurance.”
Congressman Colin Allred, D-TX, is also working to convince his state to expand the program. Allred argues not doing so disproportionately affects African American and Latino communities, just like the virus.
“During this crisis, the stark inequities in our healthcare system have just been exposed even more,” Allred said.
The lawmakers want to include money to fund the expansions for three years in the next coronavirus relief package.
Republicans from states that have expanded Medicaid, like Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, said now is not the time.
“These can’t be Christmas trees,” Boozman said. “These aren’t stimulus bills so far. These are survival bills. Right now, I think we really need to stick to that.”
However, former CMS administrator, Andy Slavitt, argues the federal government will have to spend the money either way.
“We should begin to learn a lesson as a country that we can spend less if we keep people healthier, or we can spend more if we wait until they get sicker,” Slavitt said.
So far, President Trump has chosen to give hospitals money to treat uninsured coronavirus patients rather than encourage states to expand their Medicaid coverage.
The other states that have yet to expand Medicaid are Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming.