Handwritten signs dotted throughout the crowd described the Medicaid refusal as "Alabama's other death penalty" and declared that "Bentley is bogus." Chants of "Shame on you, governor!" broke out every few minutes.
Edward Savela held aloft his Blue Cross Blue Shield card that he received because of the Affordable Care Act, which has "got some flaws but we're working through them," he said.
Bentley is being irresponsible by ignoring the pleas of his constituents, including many in the business world, Savela said.
"It's all part of a red state cabal of governors that want to discredit Obamacare," he said.
Anthony "Alann" Johnson described the fight as a "silent civil war" whose casualties include veterans, senior citizens and children in Alabama who do not receive adequate medical treatment.
"It's not about race. It's the haves versus the have-nots," said Johnson, a contender for a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives.
Grayson Brown, with the Progressive Democrats, elicited yells from those gathered after proclaiming that "people will die because of this decision."
The Birmingham Metro NAACP, Progressive Democrats of America and Greater Birmingham Ministries coordinated the demonstration. The rally's speakers assured the crowd that many more demonstrations would take place throughout the state, particularly at the state capitol.
In late October, the same groups rallied at the park to urge Bentley to expand Medicaid coverage in Alabama under the Affordable Care Act. The rallies, press conferences and other events are part of a statewide campaign to convince Alabama leaders to accept Medicaid money.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand Medicaid coverage to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That would mean individuals making up to $15,415 would be eligible for Medicaid coverage in Alabama, according to a Kaiser study. Right now, the income cap for individuals without disabilities or children in Alabama is $3,221.
The federal government would foot the whole bill for the expansion for the first three years, and pay at least 90 percent of the bill in the following years. 29 states and Washington, D.C., have chosen to expand Medicaid or are moving towards it, according to the Advisory Board Company. Alabama is not among them.
One study done by the University of Alabama found that Medicaid expansion could generate a $28 billion increase in overall business activity from 2014 to 2020, and create 30,000 jobs. In addition, the study says that 300,000 people would be covered under Medicaid. Bentley has called the numbers in that study "bogus."
"My goal is not to expand Medicaid, my goal is to have fewer people on Medicaid and have more people working," Bentley said during an address in Gadsden.
Link to original article from AL.com