Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cameron Smith: Does Alabama already have a better healthcare model than the Medicaid expansion?

  Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court provided states with the opportunity to reject the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion without jeopardizing existing Medicaid funds, the expansion has become a political football.

  Governor Bentley has called the ACA Medicaid expansion “a federal government dependency program for the uninsured.” On the other end of the political spectrum, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith claims that growing Medicaid will generate “30,700 new jobs, [a] $2.1 billion economic boost, plus 500 lives saved every year.”

  If even the most ardent proponent of the Medicaid expansion in Alabama advocates the economic stimulus of the ACA Medicaid expansion ahead of improving healthcare outcomes, the debate over Medicaid has clearly become more about money and politics than helping vulnerable Alabamians.

  For a minute, turn the focus to the Alabamians stuck between Medicaid and being able to afford private health insurance or even subsidized health insurance under the ACA exchange. Providing healthcare access to those Alabamians is the challenge the ACA’s Medicaid expansion is theoretically designed to address.

  So far, supporters of the ACA Medicaid expansion have been able to claim that their opponents either reject the “gap” problem or simply fail to have a better solution. Some GOP governors and state legislators have tried to put a different face on the Medicaid expansion, but most have struggled with developing real alternatives.

  It might come as a surprise that Alabama is home to at least one effective healthcare model specifically designed to serve the “gap” population.

  Last year, Victory Health Partners, a nonprofit based in Mobile, provided medical, dental and vision care to 15,800 patients in their service area. They also administered $4.4 million worth of prescription medications through partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

  Victory Health boasts an amazing range of services with an average expense for care of a little more than $70 dollars per patient file in 2013. In a political climate largely conceding that heavy government support is necessary to care for the health of low-income families, Victory Health provides their services without government funding.

  A brief visit to their offices sheds light on the truly innovative aspects of their healthcare delivery system. They are equipped for dental, vision, and general medicine in the same facility, a unique feature for any healthcare system. For more specialized services, they have a network of over 150 doctors who extend Victory Health’s reach. These specialists care for Victory Health patients for a modest co-pay consistent with those charged by Victory Health.

  Their comprehensive approach to patient care not only improves health outcomes, but it changes lives. Patients are not another number under Medicaid or viewed as second-tier customers by their care providers. Patients own their healthcare, they build relationships with their physicians, and many develop positive healthcare habits conspicuously absent in underserved communities throughout Alabama.

  Given the choice between falling under Medicaid and receiving care at Victory Health, the choice for Victory Health patients is clear. “Your personal healthcare is their number one priority,” said patient Ursula Powell. “The services of Victory Health Partners would be my one and only option.”

  About the author: Cameron Smith writes a regular column for Alabama Media Group. He is vice president and general counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families. He may be reached at camerons[at] or on Twitter @DCameronSmith.

  This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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