by Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – As more and more provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll out, the disconnect between what leaders in pockets of the country want for their constituents and what the citizens actually want becomes more clear –and nowhere is that disconnect clear than in the Deep South.
According to recent report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, among citizens across five states in the Deep South – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – nearly two-thirds are in favor of Medicaid expansion , regardless of their personal political leanings or deology.
Among African Americans, 85.3 percent were in favor of the expansion, compared to 53.3 percent of Whites. According to the Census, 21 percent of all Blacks live in these five states, about 8 million people.
As a provision of the Affordable Care Act, states are able to opt into expanding the eligibility standards of Medicaid coverage to individuals under 65 who have an income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level—for a family of four, that’s an annual income below $30,970; for an individual it’s $14,856.
Of the five states surveyed, none of them have expressed interest in expanding Medicaid coverage. In fact, governors in all five states have openly stated that they have no intentions of expanding coverage.
Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a national health care non-profit, says these governors are doing their states and their constituents a disservice.
“Any governor refusing to expand Medicaid is committing fiscal malpractice,” Pollack said on a recent media conference call. “States will save money with expansions because when someone is uninsured and needs care, somebody has to pay and usually the state picks up those costs.”
The expansion is also set to create as many as 16,000 jobs and improve economic activity by 8 billion dollars in Louisiana alone.
Beginning in January 2014, the federal government will fully cover the cost of Medicaid expansion in states for three years, and after those three years states have the choice of opting out again.
Political leanings are the main reason states are opting out of the expansion, although Republican governors in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, and Arizona have opted into the program.
Under current eligibility standards, families in Alabama are only eligible for Medicaid if they make less than $5,700 in annual income, in Georgia that figure is $11,000, Louisiana $5,900 and South Carolina a family of four must make less than $24,000.
Given the current cost of care, families are simply unable to afford medical coverage in these states.
“Our findings indicate that citizens recognize the benefits of expansion for their communities, said Ralph Everett, the president of the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies.” My hope is that Republican governors will find that this is good for their citizens.”
The findings also indicate that 33 percent of citizens in the Deep South consider the entire Affordable Care Act favorably, with an increase by about 20 percent among African Americans and self-identified liberals.
The least favorable aspect of the ACA is the tax penalty for those who don’t have health insurance, but support increased for financial help for low income individuals and insurance exchanges.