As many as 300,000 people in Alabama fall into the Medicaid gap, making too much to qualify for the state's Medicaid program and too little to qualify for a subsidy to buy private insurance on the federal health exchange. More than 10,000 of them have signed petitions demanding that Governor Robert Bentley take the money and give them health insurance, and they had a rally on the capitol steps this weekend to present those petitions.
Save OurSelves: A Movement for Justice and Democracy, or SOS, made up of 40 organizations and faith-based ministries, presented more than 13,653 signatures to the Capitol doorstep in a coffin carried by six pallbearers.Gov. Bentley was not at the rally to accept the signatures and didn't send a representative. He maintains that Medicaid is broken and needs to be fixed before he'll accept more money, and also that he doesn't believe that the federal government will continue to pay for three years of the expansion. The only reason that wouldn't happen, Bentley must know, is if Republicans succeeded in repealing the law, which they won't. But it's the only excuse he's got.
The symbolism was not lost on Callie Greer from Montgomery, who lost her daughter to breast cancer after they both attended last year's rally together.
"I'm supporting my daughter, Venus Colley-Mims. My daughter didn't have a job and didn't have health insurance. She went to the Baptist health center emergency room for two years complaining about a lump in her breast and after two years of visits, her breast was literally rotten," Greer said.
When Greer's daughter was finally sent to the cancer center for surgery and chemo, her cancer was already stage four and had spread throughout her body, Greer said. Mims died shortly after.
In the meantime, the state is refusing $1 billion over the next several years, along with as much as $1.7 billion in new revenue and up to 52,000 new jobs. And Alabamians will continue to die prematurely and needlessly.