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Governor, please consider the people who would benefit by expanding Medicaid (Opinion from Coalition for Healthier Escambia County) organization was established in 1995 to address the health care needs of ourcounty and we havebeenmeeting monthly with few exceptions since that time. In all these years, wehave missed less than six meetings andwe rotate our meeting sites among the three towns. We have a core group of peoplewhomeet regularly and our membership is comprised of business people, physicians, nurses,retirees,chambers of commerce executives, hospitaladministrators, local and state politicians as well as concerned citizens.

Weare writing you out of our great concern that our state is not participating inthe Medicaid expansion program that is desperately needed by thousands ofuninsured people in our state.

We areaware that you have"drawn a line in the sand" which will resultin our state losing billions of dollars in federalfunds which we understand do not require astate match and do not require us to pay ANYTHINGback in 2014, 2015, or 2016.It is not until 2020 that Alabamawill be required to pay its 10 percent share.

Medicaidexpansion is especially important to those of us who live in rural Alabama. Our hospitalsdepend on Medicaid funding to remain viable. It is our request that you pleasereconsider your position, in a manner which has been done by several Southern,Republican governors. It is our beliefthat there are thousands of Alabamians who are uninsured simply because they donot earn a salary that allows them to purchase insurance and could benefit fromthe Medicaid expansion program. Contraryto many opinions, these people are amongAlabama's workforce. Infact, there have been 90,000 documented in various categories of workerswhoare doing their best to support their families.

Oneof our greatest concerns is that at the federal and state level our health carehas become nothing but a "political football" and we need action to assurethat this does not continue. I am surethat you are aware that a number of organizations have joined together topromote expanded health care access for low income Alabamians who don't qualify for the current Medicaidprogram. We ask that you join in thesecollaborative efforts and take the needed leadership role in reconsidering yourcurrent position regarding the Medicaid program. This new coalition is called Alabama's BetterEconomy Starts Today, also know as Alabama's BEST. Hopefully you will see a need tobecome a part of this collaborative effort.

Pleasesign on to Medicaid expansion before the end of this year so that Alabama does not losebillionsofneeded federal funds over the next few years.

(Ruth Harrell is chair of the Coalition for Healthier Escambia County. You can reach her at rharrell@panhandle.rr.com.)

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