With every seat in the NC General Assembly being contested this year, the Nov 6, 2018 midterm will have effects lasting decades. Of the many issues at stake, recent polls indicate growing public support of Medicaid expansion.
In NC, the long debated matter of Medicaid expansion sits among the top issues. As insurance premiums rise, prescription medications become too expensive for even those who are insured, and as the uninsured rate grows, many people are beginning to ask questions. What do the 34 states that have expanded Medicaid know that NC doesn’t? Why are Florida, Maine, Idaho, and Utah, placing expansion on the midterm ballot this year? Most importantly, are the reasons NC has chosen to be one of only 13 states not considering expansion or already expanded, reasons that serve the people? With Medicaid expansion, an estimated 650,000 of our brothers and sisters would become eligible for health services in our state. (kff.org 2018).
Currently Medicaid coverage in NC serves the elderly, disabled, and children. However, eligibility is determined by very restrictive income levels. Elderly, blind, and disabled people cannot have incomes higher than approx. $16,000 for a couple. Parents with minor children must have an annual income lower than 44% of the federal poverty level and adults without dependent children are not eligible at all.
Expanding Medicaid will provide coverage to the over half a million people in NC who fall in the gap – making too much to qualify for the existing Medicaid program but not enough to be eligible for the federal subsidies included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The consequences of continuing to reject expansion are also economic. It’s correct there will be a cost to expand. Estimates put that cost at approx. 3 billion dollars between 2013-2022. Not expanding is estimated to cost NC $39.6 billion dollars in the same time period. Costs are attributed in part to higher health care due to continued overuse of emergency rooms and sicker patients due to complications that many times could have been avoided; lost jobs in the public and private sector, and an overall less productive workforce.
The NC Council of Churches called for health care for all over twenty years ago. The Gospels are rich with examples of Jesus caring for people and healing the sick. If we are followers of the Gospel and the commandments, how can we not be leading the efforts to extend life saving care for the blind, lame, and leprous of our day? “Freely you have received, freely give” Matthew 10:8.
It is our calling to act, prophetically and quickly, before protections are further eroded and more of our brothers, sisters, parents, and children are harmed from a lack of basic healthcare.
Take action. Vote.
Resources with bipartisan information about healthcare in the US and NC:
- Candidate questionnaire
- www.ncchurches.org (Search healthcare)
The State Board also wants to remind voters of their voting options in North Carolina. Any registered voter may:
- Vote by mail (no excuse is needed)
- Vote during the in-person early voting period from October 17 through November 3, or
- Vote on Election Day, November 6. The regular voter registration deadline is 5 p.m. October 12. Eligible individuals may also register during the early voting period.