Editorial: Not expanding Medicaid – morally bankrupt, fiscally inexcusable – WRAL.com

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, April 26, 2017; Editorial # 8153
​The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

The costs of failing to expand Medicaid in North Carolina continue to mount. As May approaches:

  • An estimated 500,000 needy North Carolinians are denied health care coverage;
  • As many as 4,015 have died since 2014 when the state could have expanded, for lack of health coverage;
  • 39,392 jobs haven’t been created;
  • $9.5 billion federal taxpayer dollars that would have come back to North Carolina, are instead paying to provide health care in other states.

The General Assembly has demonstrated feline-like quickness in passing laws to limit the governor’s authority, manipulate the courts or social policies like HB2. But it has shown sloth-like foot-dragging when it comes to making sure all North Carolinians have access to adequate health insurance.

In recent weeks some faint and potentially hopeful signs have emerged that the icy opposition of legislative leaders’ to expanding Medicaid eligibility may be thawing.

“For the first time since the passage of the ACA (Affordable Care Act), there is an opportunity to partner across party lines, chambers and branches of government to expand Medicaid in North Carolina for the benefit of the health and well-being of North Carolinians,” observed the N.C. Institute of Medicine in a report that compared three key Medicaid expansion proposals that have emerged in recent weeks.

A group of Republicans, led by Rep. Donny Lambeth (former president of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center), have offered up a plan that would extend coverage to about 300,000 people while imposing a variety of demands and restrictions on those eligible for coverage. Far from adequate, it does represent a small crack in the formerly solid and intractable opposition. Still, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger haven’t expressed any support for the legislation.

It must leap through three House committees before it even makes its way to a full House vote. There is no indication, amid the frantic pace of the current legislation cross-over deadline, that the bill has even been scheduled for a first committee hearing.

Plans submitted by Democratic legislators also continue to languish.

Gov. Roy Cooper is seeking public input in developing details for his proposal, including a series of four public hearings around the state in early May.

Seventy of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties have been designated “medical deserts” for their lack of primary care and seven rural hospitals are at risk of closing.

A sound and fair plan to provide health insurance to North Carolinians most in need is far overdue. Legislative leaders need to end their partisan opposition to expanding health coverage and work with Gov.Cooper now to end the stalemate.

It is hard to believe that anyone would play politics with people’s health care. But our General Assembly continues to amaze us. The lack of expansion of Medicaid is both morally bankrupt and fiscally inexcusable.

BY THE NUMBERS: COSTS OF DENYING HEALTH INSURANCE IN N.C.

SOURCES:
*Opting Out Of Medicaid Expansion: The Health And Financial Impacts, Health Affairs Blog
**The Economic and Employment Costs of Not Expanding Medicaid in N.C., Center for Health Policy Research, The George Washington University, Dec. 2014

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