According to numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, around 32,000 more Alabamians were uninsured in 2018 than 2017 and the state’s 10-percent uninsured rate is more than a percentage point higher than the national average.

For his part, Jim Carnes, Policy Director for Alabama Arise, asserts that the state’s climbing number of uninsured residents is due to its failure to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“No one should have to go without the medical care they need simply because they can’t afford it,” Carnes said in a statement following the release of the Census Bureau numbers. “But that’s the reality for a growing number of Alabamians because our state has refused to expand Medicaid. Gov. Kay Ivey and state lawmakers need to lift this policy barrier that separates hundreds of thousands of Alabamians from affordable health coverage.”

Carnes added that “all Alabamians would benefit from Medicaid expansion,” noting that more than 340,000 Alabamians would gain “health security” and some $1.7 billion in federal spending would be pumped into state coffers as a result of such a policy.

Further, Carnes claimed, roughly $446 million in state tax revenue would be generated over the next four years in “economic activity related to expansion.”

“Even more important than the economic gains would be the human gains. Medicaid expansion would give Alabama better tools to address mental illnesses, substance use disorders, infant mortality and other longstanding challenges,” Carnes said. “Closing our state’s coverage gap would mean healthier families, more vibrant communities and a more productive workforce. It’s time to make an investment in Alabama’s future. The governor should expand Medicaid to protect rural hospitals, create thousands of jobs and make Alabama healthier.”

Despite Carnes’ assertions, many states that expanded Medicaid saw the number of uninsured residents jump during the same time period, including Alaska, which saw an increase of about 55,000, and Ohio, which saw an increase of 58,000.

Contrarily, Maine, South Carolina, and Wyoming did not expand Medicaid yet saw a decrease in the number of uninsured residents – Maine saw a modest drop of 1,000, while South Carolina saw its numbers drop by roughly 19,000 and Wyoming saw its decline by 10,000.

In total, 15 states saw their numbers decrease, with New York seeing the steepest decline of 72,000.

Adam Powell
Adam Powell is a journalist with nearly two decades of experience, currently working as a Staff Writer and Columnist for The Selma Times-Journal and serving as President of the Alabama chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).