Pointing out that the state’s ongoing refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is harming hundreds of thousands of poor North Carolinians and sending millions of state taxpayer dollars to other states, a group of lawmakers and advocates gathered outside the state Legislative Building this morning to ask that Gov. Pat McCrory call a special session of the General Assembly to revisit the decision.
The event featured State House Democratic Leader, Rep. Larry Hall and State Senator Mike Woodard, as well as Adam Linker of the Justice Center’s Health Access Project and Raleigh physician and free clinic practitioner, Dr. Gary Greenberg (pictured at the podium).
Though highly critical of the Governor’s inaction thus far on the Medicaid issue, both Hall and Woodard expressed a measure of hope that McCrory’s recent rather ambiguous statements about the program (he recently said, inaccurately, that the federal government might somehow force the state to expand the program) indicated that there is at least some prospect for revisiting the issue. Both men also noted the growing chorus from hospitals and other providers who are demanding such action. “Let’s not let another hospital or clinic close,” said Woodard.
Linker spoke directly to one of the Governor’s stated rationales for refusing to expand Medicaid — namely that the current system is already “broken.” He called this assertion blatantly incorrect, noted that the state’s Medicaid Community Care program is actually a national model and highlighted the recent discovery of information by journalists indicating that the a Medicaid audit was doctored for political reasons.
While noting that he still doesn’t really understand the state’s refusal to expand the program in the first place and attributing it to “mean-spirited ideological partisanship,” Dr. Greenberg said that a new special session would be “an opportunity to right an injustice.” As a veteran physician, he said there is literally “no way” that the volunteer community and/or free clinics can cover the unmet need for care. He also described North Carolina’s current system for serving the uninsured (i.e. hospital emergency rooms) a ”recipe for the worst possible clinical outcomes.”
Advocates and lawmakers in the Triad and Charlotte areas are expected hold similar events later this week.