With escalating premiums and deductibles continuing to plague many Alabamians, health care continues to be a hot topic across the Yellowhammer State, which is why Tuscaloosa Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox on Tuesday announced a health care plan he would implement if elected Governor.
“As Governor, I will immediately move to expand Medicaid, accepting the offer of federal funds for pennies on the dollar, free money that Alabama has inexplicably and inexcusably refused,” explained Maddox on his website.
“These billions of additional dollars will have multiple short and long-term benefits that will save our rural hospitals from further devastating closures and hopefully allow some that have already closed to reopen; provide more and better services to children, the elderly, the disabled, and hardworking people who cannot afford health insurance; act as an economic stimulus by creating new, high paying jobs, both in traditional healthcare and in the development of new medical technologies that benefit everyone; and allow Alabama to take a major step up from the bottom of the nationwide health rankings, where we currently come in at an embarrassing 47th overall.”
Maddox’s plan aims to put to bed the “bogus objection” made by those who say “Medicaid equates to government handouts to able-bodied people who won’t work,” by including a work requirement for those individuals who are capable either have a job or work to find a job
“A work requirement certainly is not feared by those potential Medicaid recipients who already have jobs but do not have employer provided health insurance and who cannot afford insurance because their paychecks are already stretched to pay for food, shelter, and other more immediate needs,” explained Maddox.
He contends doing so would provide new coverage to almost 200,000 Alabama citizens who cannot afford health insurance.
Maddox believes the expansion of Medicaid will save Alabama’s rural hospitals.
“The closure of so many of these essential medical centers over the past several years is increasingly denying health care access to rural Alabama,” said Maddox “This is a concern not only to people who live in these communities – it should be of equal concern to families who travel through any of the 55 rural Alabama counties and may need emergency services, or who consume food and other products from Alabama’s strong agricultural industry.”
He continued, “The hospital closures kill jobs, which strains the economic engine of the entire state. Rural hospitals are a top five employer in most rural counties of Alabama, and when we say no to Medicaid expansion we are saying no to jobs and continued healthcare access to anyone who lives or travels through rural Alabama.”
Maddox also makes a case for improving telemedicine — a relatively new concept that seeks to improve a patient’s health by permitting two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or practitioner at the distant site — use and availability, which he believes will allow specialists in advanced medical centers to treat patients anywhere in the state.
“This will enable rural hospitals to partner with larger, urban institutions and facilitate their transition to acute care facilities without closing them,” explained Maddox. “Expanded use of nurse practitioners and other mid-level providers further will fill gaps in our medical services.”
“Alabama’s current medical model is morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable. To paraphrase a famous scientist, we keep gazing at our feet when we should be looking to the stars. There’s no limit to our state’s potential, and a healthier Alabama is an essential first step,” Maddox concluded.