MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Nearly 300 Alabama faith leaders released a joint letter Thursday calling on Gov. Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid coverage immediately for adults with low incomes. The letter – signed by 278 pastors, imams, sisters and other faith leaders – asks for support for Alabama’s most vulnerable communities and acknowledges the limitations of charity alone.
“We know all too well that medical bills often drive Alabama families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty,” the letter says. “We will always serve those who are vulnerable, but charity alone cannot solve these problems. We need the Alabama government to do its part to protect and provide care for those in need.”
If Alabama expanded Medicaid, some 300,000 adults with low incomes would gain access to affordable health care. These Alabamians earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidized marketplace plans under the Affordable Care Act.
“About 300,000 Alabamians have been waiting since 2014 for the health care benefits they deserve. These people are working, taking care of their children and contributing to our local economies. They should not have to wait any longer,” said Alabama Arise Cover Alabama campaign director Jane Adams, who organized the sign-on letter.
“Governor Ivey must listen to the voices of the people of Alabama and quickly expand Medicaid. Depriving struggling families of health care is wholly incompatible with the teaching of many faiths and the ideals of our state.”
The faith leaders who signed the letter agree this is a universal issue requiring bipartisan support to help Alabamians get the care they need. The letter reads: “It is past time for Alabama elected leaders to move away from the partisanship and divisiveness that have plagued this issue and instead move forward in a collaborative and bipartisan manner. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with you why our faith compels us to advocate for Medicaid expansion.”
One of the letter signers ‒ Rev. Carolyn Foster of Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church ‒ said Medicaid expansion is “a moral issue” for Alabama.
“Alabama’s women and children are the people impacted the most by lack of affordable health insurance,” Foster said. “How long are we going to look the other way or cross the road on the other side, to avoid seeing our neighbor in need of medical care? How long will Governor Ivey and those elected to represent us turn their backs on people they are to serve?
“People are suffering. This is a moral issue. We call on them to do the right thing. Expand Medicaid now!”
Alabama is one of only 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which President Joe Biden signed into law in March, includes a provision that would give a boost of federal dollars to holdout states that expand coverage. Estimates show the new federal incentive could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new federal funds for Alabama Medicaid over two years.
That amount would more than offset the initial costs of expansion. One estimate from Manatt shows that Alabama would receive enough federal funding under ARPA to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion for more than four years.
Alabama Arise and Cover Alabama call on Ivey to act quickly to expand Medicaid and make Alabama stronger and healthier. The letter signed by 278 Alabama faith leaders went to Ivey on Thursday and appears in its entirety below.
Letter from Alabama faith leaders to Gov. Kay Ivey in support of Medicaid expansion:
Dear Governor Ivey,
As leaders from various faith traditions, denominations and religious organizations, we come to you with urgency: Alabamians are suffering because of the COVID-19 health care and economic crisis. Our faith compels us to ask you to expand Alabama Medicaid now.
We share a moral vision of a health care system that offers health, wholeness and the opportunity for all to recognize their full potential. We believe that no family should have to choose between putting food on the table, paying rent or going to the doctor. We know all too well that medical bills often drive Alabama families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty. We will always serve those who are vulnerable, but charity alone cannot solve these problems. We need the Alabama government to do its part to protect and provide care for those in need.
Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians are caught in the health coverage gap because state leadership has refused to expand Medicaid. This failure leaves an estimated 300,000 people just one medical emergency away from personal impairment or financial ruin. Hospitals, specifically rural hospitals like the one in your hometown, are in dire financial condition. Without Medicaid expansion, more hospitals could be forced to close their doors and leave thousands of vulnerable Alabamians, including mothers and children, veterans and the elderly, without care.
It is past time for Alabama elected leaders to move away from the partisanship and divisiveness that has plagued this issue and instead move forward in a collaborative and bipartisan manner. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with you why our faith compels us to advocate for Medicaid expansion at this critical moment.