Rally to expand Medicaid; governor stands firm - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Rally to expand Medicaid; governor stands firm

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

About a dozen or so supporters of Medicaid expansion took to the steps of the Alabama Capitol Tuesday. The event comes just more than six weeks from a crucial deadline for Alabama to decide on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"This is the most important issue facing Alabama that we can deal with and the governor can deal with it with one stroke of the pen," said Sen. Hank Sanders, D–Selma.

Under the federal healthcare law states have the option to expand Medicaid to individuals and families with incomes equal to or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, 133 percent equates to approximately $32,000 in annual income.

Alabama's Gov. Robert Bentley announced a year ago that he had decided to forego the $1.2 billion from the federal government to cover the newly eligible Medicaid population. Estimates from several studies range in number from 175,000 new enrollees to as many as 350,000.

The governor reiterated his position during a press conference in his office Monday afternoon.

"I can't think of anything worse right now than to have expanded Medicaid and have all of these people on an entitlement program right now and for this entire thing to go under," Gov. Bentley said. "Which I think is going to happen."

A recent study commissioned by the Alabama Hospital Association concluded that the state could gain as many as 30,000 new jobs if the state was to expand Medicaid.

Speakers at Tuesday's rally say expanding Medicaid could be the biggest economic development project the state has ever seen.

"It's so important that ideology and politics not be the deciding forces, but what is morally right," said Sen. Sanders. "Reaching out to those in need."

Gov. Bentley says he stands by his decision.

"I think my decision is right," he said. "But I always thought it was right or I wouldn't have made it."

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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