MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate passed a $5 million appropriation to help in the fight against coronavirus.
Alabama currently remains one of five states with no confirmed cases, although state health officer Dr. Scott Harris estimates there will be cases confirmed within the next few days.
“It’s important to the people to state know that we are ready in Alabama to deal with this virus,” said Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Alabama lawmakers say they are taking proactive steps, by approving $5 million for testing. The money also covers telehealth and the treatment costs for the uninsured. Gov. Kay Ivey has already signed off on the appropriation.
Right now, state health officials say they can test up to 150 people. However, there is concern from many that there may not be enough test in the state.
“We have the tests, okay,” Marsh said. “They’re here and people have been tested in state Alabama.”
House Democrats are using this time to call for the expansion of Medicaid and to treat people who maybe affected. Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, introduced a bill, HB448, to extend Medicaid coverage for new and expectant mothers for up to a year post-partum, while Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, introduced a bill, HB447, to fully expand Medicaid coverage.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, introduced two resolutions supporting his colleagues bills and urging Gov. Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid.
“Expanding Medicaid and increasing access to affordable and quality healthcare, particularly for new and expectant mothers, is crucial in addressing Alabama’s maternal mortality rate (currently one of the highest in the nation),” Hall said. “Beyond that, it will help provide necessary funding to rural hospitals and healthcare facilities that are currently operating in the red.”
The expansion would provide around 397,000 currently uninsured, eligible Alabamians, including an estimated 13,000 veterans. Overall expansion is estimated to create 30,000 new jobs, while drastically increasing economic activity.
Rep. Moore echoed Rep. Hall’s thoughts.
“Rural areas across this state, including at least eight counties, do not have an operating hospital,” she said. “With COVID-19 now being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, we must take action now to avoid the loss of life.”
According to the Alabama Hospital Association, the state has seen 17 hospitals close in the past 10 years, a majority of which were in rural areas. They estimate that 88% of rural hospitals and 75% of all hospitals across the state are currently operating at a deficit.
“By not expanding Medicaid, this ensures that many Alabamians that may become infected will go undiagnosed and untreated,” Rafferty said.
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