Zonta Club of Birmingham advocates to expand Medicaid in their community

The Zonta Club of Birmingham, USA, continues to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid in the state of Alabama. On 5 August, the club’s guest speaker, Matt Holdbrooks, spoke about women's lack of access to healthcare. The club has submitted the article below that they wrote to summarize the presentation.

Lack of Access to Health Care
Pregnancy in Alabama can be deadly. The state has the third highest rate of maternal deaths in the nation, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alabama’s 36.4 deaths from pregnancy and childbirth complications per 100,000 births is more than twice the national rate of 17.4.

Families in rural areas do not have access to a medical facility and often lack transportation to get to one, according to Matt Holdbrooks, president and CEO of Kid One Transport. The Birmingham nonprofit helps to tackle that problem by driving those in need of medical help to cities for health services ranging from prenatal care to dialysis or chemotherapy, he told a recent meeting of Zonta Club of Birmingham. Some 25 percent of women in Alabama can’t get prenatal health care. The result is often low birth weights, other complications and infant mortality which rivals third world countries, he said. Holdbrooks says Medicaid Expansion would provide income to rural hospitals which would mean more money to pay for OB-GYN and pediatric care.

The number of rural Alabama counties with ob-gyn care has plummeted, Holdbrooks said. In 1980, 45 of the 54 rural counties in the state had such services. In 2021, the number had dropped to 19, he said. 
Kid One strives to help. With a fleet of 21 vehicles and 19 staff members, Kid One transports families in 39 Alabama counties to medical facilities, said Holdbrooks. Mercedes Benz in Vance has been instrumental in supporting the organization by providing vehicles and maintaining them, he added. Last year, Kid One made 12,886 transports, he said, down from 23,000 before the pandemic. COVID has also meant that what services did exist in rural counties have been cut back or eliminated. 

Drivers often meet the clients at 4 a.m. or even before to get to early morning appointments in distant locations such as Birmingham. Most of the people Kid One helps struggle with poverty. Some 73 percent have annual incomes less than $10,000 a year. A family might just have one vehicle that is needed to get to work or lack childcare at home to be able to leave for hours to see a doctor. Kid One drivers are trained in CPR, safe driving techniques, wheelchair lift operation and a host of other tasks that might be required. 

Medicaid is vital to the state, he stressed. It is very difficult for an adult to qualify, he said. They must have an income of less than $4,000 year, be disabled or otherwise impaired. 
Some 65 percent of Medicaid recipients are children and another 8 to 10 percent are expectant mothers, he said, adding that half the births in Alabama are funded by Medicaid. 
Zonta Club of Birmingham is affiliated with an international group which seeks to empower women through service and advocacy.