Thursday during a conference call with reporters, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) was asked to address Medicaid expansion and its potential future as health care policy in Alabama.
Jones touted his SAME Act, an acronym for States Achieving Medicaid Expansion, which has not yet become law. However, it would give states that expanded the entitlement program now three years of reimbursement as to ease the burden on state government coffers. The senator from Jefferson County expressed his optimism Medicaid expansion would come to fruition and said it had unseen benefits.
“The estimates are some 300,000 people in Alabama that would be eligible for Medicaid expansion, that would get good health care,” Jones said. “And when you get that kind of good health care, when you get that opportunity, it gives them better health outcomes, which saves money for the state in the long run. It saves employers in the long run. It is just a win-win situation.”
When asked about the imposition that expansion would put on state finances, Jones noted his efforts in Congress but also argued that if the state was willing to invest in economic development, why not health care through Medicaid expansion?
“First of all, the SAME Act would give them three years of 100% reimbursement,” he explained. “Then it would go to 95%. Then it would go to 90%. And my response to that is we invest all the time into bringing businesses into Alabama. We give tax breaks. We give tax incentives. We lose money in order to get money constantly. We’ve done it with every automobile manufacturer. We do it with businesses all the time at both the state and the local level. We don’t invest like that in health care, and we need to make investments in the health of our people in Alabama because, in the long run, those investments pay off. Expansion is not just a health care plan and a cost. And that’s where I think people are looking at it. They look at a dollar out, and they don’t look at the investment, the economic plan that will come with it, as well that includes better health outcomes for all employers, for schools – you name it. The benefits of Medicaid expansion for a poor state like Alabama would be enormous.”
Jones also pointed to states that have expanded Medicaid and had their death rates decline and lobbied policymakers to consider the long-term.
“I just can’t stress enough – it’s just beyond me that people only look at this at what it might cost in the short run and not the benefit to the people of Alabama,” he added. “We need to be playing long ball on this and not just going from one budget to the next. We need to be looking at as a bigger thing.”