CHARLOTTE – A host of big-name Democratic politicians took the stage at a health care forum early Wednesday morning to talk about the risks the Affordable Care Act is facing from opponents.
“Health care in American is a right for all and not just a privileged few,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Speaker after speaker at the morning forum hosted by FamiliesUSA and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) talked about how, after years of making affordable health care a goal, it was now an accomplishment. But it was accomplishment under serious threat, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s repeatedly saying on the campaign trail that he’ll repeal health care on the first day of his presidency.
But not talked about in the course of the two-and-a-half hour forum was the threat to Medicaid expansion, an issue that emerged from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care reform. The justices found the Affordable Care Act constitutional, but also found that states couldn’t be forced to sign off on Medicaid expansion if they didn’t want to.
Much of the battle for health care will also be happening beyond November in statehouses around the country, including North Carolina.
The federal government has pledged to pay for most of the costs of expansion, which would affect large numbers of currently uninsured people, and leaving states on the hook for what’s predicted to be a fraction of the total cost.
A recent study by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center found that 488,867 North Carolinians would have health care under the expanded options by 2014 and the state would spend a projected $830 million while taking in a savings of $1 to $2 billion from 2014-2019 because of the drop in uncompensated medical care. The Budget and Tax Center, like N.C. Policy Watch, is a project under the North Carolina Justice Center, a statewide anti-poverty agency.
Neither of the two gubernatorial candidates, Republican Pat McCrory or Democrat Walter Dalton, has taken a position on the highly-charged issue, saying they’ll take a wait-and-see approach.
The Republican leaders of the N.C. legislature have also remained mum, and reiterated that they don’t want to talk about Medicaid expansion until post-election.
Not opting to include Medicaid expansion will undermine the goal of Obamacare, to bring health care to those that currently can’t afford it or were denied coverage.
“We’ll have a health care system that will leave the poorest of the poor citizens left out in the cold,” said Doug Sea, an attorney with Legal Aid of the Southern Piedmont, who attended Wednesday’s forum.