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Marshall Medical has joined many other state hospitals in helping people understand the importance of expanding Medicaid in Alabama.

Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Marshall Medical CEO stresses importance of Medicaid expansion for Alabama

The Advertiser-Gleam covered Gary Gore's recently talk explaining why it's critical for the Alabama legislature to act to expand healthcare coverage for Alabamians.

Marshall Medical Centers CEO Gary Gore sees expanding Medicaid in Alabama as a no brainer, but the legislature has not chosen to do that.

If nothing else, he said, it would be a tremendous engine for economic expansion.

He was the guest speaker at the Marshall County Democratic Club’s monthly meeting at the Guntersville Public Library last week.

Gore said reimbursement for Medicaid has declined for Alabama hospitals, but Medicaid does at least pay something. The hospitals provide services for a number of indigent patients who can’t pay anything.

In laying the foundation for his talk and how expanding Medicaid could help boost the state’s economy, Gore said Alabama hospitals employee 90,000 people statewide and support an additional 96,000 jobs outside hospitals for a total economic impact of about $20 billion.

In Marshall County, the hospitals are the second largest employer in the county with about 1,500 jobs and a $316 million economic impact.

“Healthcare is vital when recruiting new business to the area and critical to the infrastructure of the community,” Gore said.

He said Alabama hospitals are receiving millions of dollars less each year compared to what other states receive because the state has not expanded Medicare.

Misperceptions and closed hospitals

In Alabama, he said, perceptions about Medicaid are wrong. He said the current program basically provides health insurance to 2 segments of the population – children and expectant mothers.

“If you’re adult age, basically you cannot get Medicaid in our state,” he said.

Gore said many uninsured adults depend on the emergency room for their healthcare and the drive up the cost of healthcare for everyone else.

Last year, Marshall Medical provided about $12.5 million worth of care to uninsured patients.

Hospitals around the state, including Marshall Medical, continue to see increasing numbers of patients in their ERs with mental issues and substance abuse issues.

“With limited state and community resources, hospital emergency departments are packed with patients in psychiatric emergencies with nowhere to go,” Gore said.

Expanding Medicaid would not cover all the costs of psychiatric treatment but could help some.

13 hospitals have closed in Alabama since 2011, Gore said. One thing that has helped Marshall Medical financially is that there is a property tax that supports the local hospitals.

Gore said one reason they structured their partnership with Huntsville Hospitals they way they did is to keep that tax support.

Tremendous economic impact would result

He said governors and legislators often get excited and offer financial incentives for manufacturers, but expanding Medicare has the potential for far greater economic impact than opening a plant. He said the Alabama Hospital Association had a study done on the economic impacts.

“The first year would cost $168 million,” he said. But the savings to the state and new taxes from the economic boost provided by the expansion would reduce the net cost to about $25 million a year.

“When you compare $2.7 billion in annual economic gain to $25 million in cost, it’s a great deal,” Gore said. “We just have not done a great job in getting that message across.”

He said most of those who are uninsured in Alabama currently are the working poor. Expanding Medicare would offer healthcare coverage to about 340,000 people who are not covered by insurance currently.

He said that in turn would allow the to access a primary care provider rather than the emergency room and would be a cost savings. It would also help that group of people get regular care for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

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This story originally appeared in The Advertiser-Gleam. Lean more about Marshall Medical CEO Gary Gore here.

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