Gov. Robert Bentley said Monday that President Barack Obama’s decision last week to allow people with individual health plans keep them showed that the system would not work.
“I do not believe it’s a workable system,” the governor said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “I’ve never believed it’s a workable system.”
The governor, a longtime critic of the federal health care law, announced last year that he would not build a state-run exchange, or opt into an expansion of Medicaid for those making up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $15,856 for individuals, $32,499 for a household of four. The expansion is fully funded by the federal government through 2017, and has 90 percent of its costs covered after 2022.
A Kaiser Family Foundation study released earlier this month found that 191,000 people will be left in a coverage gap without the Medicaid expansion, but Bentley indicated Monday he was satisfied with his decision.
“I can’t think of anything worse right now than to have expanded Medicaid and have all these people on an entitlement program right now and for this entire thing to go under, which I think is going to happen,” Bentley said. “So I think my decision is right. But I’ve always thought it’s right.”
The Affordable Care Act requires individual policies to cover at least ten services, including maternity care, hospitalization and prescription drugs. Policies in the current market are cheaper than what is available through the health insurance exchange — where subsidies for premiums are available — but many policies in the current market do not cover those benefits and allow insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Amid criticism over policy cancellations that had taken place since October, Obama announced last week that those who currently have individual health policies that are not compliant with new standards under the Affordable Care Act would be allowed to keep them. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Humana, both offering individual policies through the exchanges, have said they maintained coverage for anyone affected by the policy cancellations.
Bentley said Monday the decision whether or not to extend those policies would be up to the individual health insurance companies, and that the Alabama Department of Insurance would play no role. A call to the Department of Insurance was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
The governor said he was committed to providing better health care for people in the state. State hospitals, particularly rural ones, get a large portion of their funding from Medicaid and depend on the program to stay open. Bentley said he would work with those facilities to try and find solutions.
“There are some rural hospitals that may have to be redesignated as something other than a hospital,” he said. “They may have to work with the state health planning board and the (Certificate of Need) planning board as we work through these issues.”
– posted by Brian Lyman