Personal Stories

See the Gap: How Medicaid expansion would benefit stylists – and every Alabamian

Over the last year, Alabama Arise has collected the stories of some of the nearly 10,000 personal care workers who would benefit from Medicaid expansion in our state. We spent months getting to know folks in one of our state’s most vibrant industries. And we want to be sure you see the last few stories in this series.

You can find all of our See the Gap stories in one place here.

We kicked off our series with a personal story about how beauty professionals make sacrifices to support us, but often have no safety net of their own. That’s especially true when it comes to having access to affordable health care for themselves or their families.

Now, as we close the series, we’re lifting up even more stories that speak to a vital question: “How would life be better for so many people if Alabama expanded Medicaid?”

Stories from Alabama’s coverage gap

Like Kayla, a young stylist who is at the pinnacle of her career. Even so, she has reservations about becoming pregnant and having a child while she has no health insurance. There are some possibilities that she just can’t afford.

An image showing a hairstylist performing a color service on a client.
Kayla performs a color service on a client at her salon in downtown Birmingham. (Photo by Whit Sides)

Or Eryn Mullins, a new mom from Sumiton. She opened up to share her heart-wrenching story of navigating the mental health landscape in our state as a new stylist with no employer-provided health coverage. She needed help but couldn’t afford it.

The stories didn’t stop there. We highlighted the challenges facing many stylists seeking mental health care. We spoke to LGBTQ stylists about sacrifices they make both professionally and personally when it comes to finding care safely. And in our final piece in the See the Gap series, we talked to salon owners about what our state can and should do to improve lives and protect the health of those working in the beauty industry.

A path forward to close the coverage gap in Alabama

Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians are in the health coverage gap. Most of them are working at low-paid but essential jobs. They’re folks we see every day but may not realize are living without access to health care. Medicaid expansion would ensure they have the health coverage they need to survive and thrive.

With so many working folks in the gap, Medicaid expansion is an essential solution to save lives and make Alabama a healthier place. It would help real people across our state. And it would be an enormous financial boost for workers and businesses.

Expanding Medicaid would provide our state with more than $400 million a year to provide more than 280,000 people with health coverage. Click here to see the economic impact in our state, and click here to see it in your county.

Mert McNaughton smiles behind her desk in the Forecast Salon in Homewood. (Photo by Whit Sides)

Read the final story in our See the Gap series.

We encourage y’all to share these stories with state leaders in your district, as well as Gov. Kay Ivey. There’s never been a better time to, as Mert said herself, create more revenue for local businesses and put more money into workers’ pockets.

It’s been a privilege to collect these powerful stories and share them with the world. And we can’t wait to tell even more stories in the months to come. Thank you for your support of Arise and for being part of our work to make life better for all Alabamians.