Rep. Sewell Calls on State, Once Again, to Expand Medicaid to Shore Up Rural Hospitals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During the House Ways & Means Committee member day hearing Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), a member of the Subcommittee on Health, drew on her visit to Sumter County’s Hill Hospital last week to highlight the dire state of Alabama’s rural hospitals, and the need to expand Medicaid.
“Last week, I had the fortune of visiting one of my rural hospitals in Sumter County, Alabama. Over 90 percent of this hospital’s patients are either on Medicaid or Medicare or are uninsured – 90 percent,” Sewell explained. “Our state Medicaid program reimburses these hospitals at about 10 percent of emergency room costs in some cases, and Medicare doesn’t reimburse higher than 67 percent of costs. First and foremost, our states need to expand Medicaid. We know that nearly 90% of rural hospital closures have occurred in states that had not expanded Medicaid before the closure.”
“It’s very important that we put politics aside and help hospitals and citizens in states that have been left behind by their state leaders’ decisions not to expand Medicaid,” Sewell continued. “At the same time, we cannot expect our rural hospitals in non-expansion states to survive if the Medicare program continues reimbursing for hospital services at bare-bone levels. … I look forward to working with my colleagues on this committee, specifically Congressmen Ron Kind, Adrian Smith, Jodey Arrington and others to modernize the way we reimburse rural hospitals and health care providers.”
Medicaid expansion would allow Alabamians making up to $23,336 per year for a household of two, or 138 percent of the poverty level, to receive health care they can afford. Some 320,000 Alabamians would benefit, and, by extension, hospitals would see increased reimbursements from an increased insurance population. Because many of those who would be impacted by Medicaid expansion live in rural parts of the state, rural hospitals especially stand to benefit from expansion.
To incentivize Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama legislature to expand the program, Sewell introduced legislation earlier this year to allow states that expand Medicaid to receive a 100 percent federal match for the first three years, 95 percent for the fourth year, 94 percent for the fifth year, 93 percent for the sixth year and 90 percent for each year thereafter, regardless of when they decide to expand. Under current law, states that have not yet expanded Medicaid have missed the window to receive a full federal match for any amount of time.
Video of Sewell’s remarks is available here.