Bentley should feel fortunate. The lead story on Thursday’s front page of The New York Times could have been headlined, “Alabama governor exemplifies leaders turning their backs on the needy.” Instead, The Times’ lead story, “State Medicaid Decisions Leave Millions Uninsured,” was an expose of the ramifications that decisions such as Bentley’s are having on millions of Americans.
Bentley doesn’t get it. He’s wrapped in a cocoon of small-government, anti-Washington ideology. By saying his long-term goal is to resist the Affordable Care Act, and by saying that he will not expand a program (Medicaid) that he calls “broken,” he’s backed himself into a corner into which he can’t escape.
If he reverses course and expands Medicaid — which he should, mostly at the expense of the federal government — he will face difficult questions about his changing opinion. So the dermatologist governor is sticking to his guns, despite the overwhelming data that prove how disastrous a decision this is.
The Times’ story Thursday was too expansive to recount in total in this space, but a few points are imperative to this discussion.
• In states that are expanding Medicaid, 6.8 percent of adults aged 19 to 64 are poor and uninsured. In the states that are not expanding Medicaid, the figure jumps to 9.1 percent.
• More than half of America’s poor and uninsured reside in Medicaid expansion-refusing states like Alabama.
• Sixty-eight percent of the poor and uninsured who are black live in states that aren’t expanding Medicaid.
• Sixty percent of the poor and uninsured who are white live in states that aren’t expanding Medicaid.
• In all 50 states, the percentage of poor and uninsured workers who are cashiers, cooks, nursing aides, sales clerks, waiters and waitresses, janitors, construction workers and housekeepers is in double digits.
We remind the governor that Alabama — which relies on so many jobs in construction and service industries — is home to thousands of workers who fall into that last category.
And, yet, Bentley won’t budge.
In an ominous tone about the South, The Times wrote, “Every state in the Deep South, with the exception of Arkansas, has rejected the expansion. Opponents of the expansion say they are against it on exclusively economic grounds, and that the demographics of the South — with its large share of poor blacks — make it easy to say race is an issue when it is not.”
It is simply inconceivable that Bentley has taken Alabama down this path. The data is clear. The research is sound. And the governor is wrong.