Rep. A.J. McCampbell from Demopolis is chairman for the Black Caucus within the Alabama House. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama is one of the group's top priorities. Members of the group say that expanding Medicaid would provide federal funding for healthcare that would benefit more than 300,000 low-income Alabamians. However, Gov. Robert Bentley opposes the expansion.
"We see that as a waste of funds because it would bring quite a bit of money into the state; it's into the billions," says McCampbell. "It would insure an additional 350,000 here in the state of Alabama."
A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as Obamacare, allows states to opt of the law's Medicaid expansion. This has left the decision of whether or not a state expands the program in the hands of its governor and other state leaders.
Previously, Bentley has said that he opposes Medicaid expansion because the state of Alabama will not be able to afford to pay the full amount for the extra recipients once matching federal funds for the program are cut off within the next three years.
"The governor and some others have said 'no,' they aren't going to give on this, and we're going to continue to fight though," says McCampbell, "and hopefully make people aware that we have people that are living under the level of poverty. And those people are the ones that are really caught in the middle. They are going to work every day and working hard and still can't afford to take care of their healthcare needs."
Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Alabama contend that the economic benefits from the effort would outweigh the additional costs.
Meanwhile, although the effort may be difficult McCampbell says that supporters of the expansion are committed to the cause.
"It's not a symbolic gesture at all. We will fight continuously and bring awareness to the needs of the people in our state, and that's a need," McCampbell said. "This is not something that we can decide that this is something that we will do; this is something that we've got to do."
So far, efforts by some state legislators in Mississippi to expand Medicaid have also been unsuccessful.