Medicaid — the absurd failure to expand it at federal expense for a half-million low-income North Carolinians and the state Senate’s latest remarkable proposal to slash the program still further– remains front and center in the state policy debate these days. Moral Monday protesters highlighted the issue last night and the real life stories of average working people whose lives are darker and shorter because of legislative leaders’ Scrooge-like behavior continue to pour in. Tomorrow, activists from an array groups will gather at the General Assembly to lift up this most obvious of issues once again. Here’s yet another story that makes the case from the good folks over at Women AdvaNCe and Planned Parenthood:
Stuck in the Medicaid gap
By Emily Callen
A few weeks ago, while talking to people about Medicaid expansion at a festival in downtown Raleigh, I met Linda. Though she seemed tired after a day at work and was probably eager to change out of her Bojangles uniform, Linda took the time to talk to me. “I really need this,” she said, filling out a postcard urging legislators to take action. “I tried to sign up for Obamacare but it was just too expensive.”
I learned later that Linda, who considers herself generally healthy, had been in a car crash last December. Broken bones kept her out of work for a few weeks, and she still sees an orthopedist because her collarbone hasn’t healed yet. Since Linda doesn’t have insurance, she’s worked out a deal to pay her doctor a little bit each month. It will take her a long time to pay off the bill, and in the meantime she will continue to struggle to make ends meet.
Linda’s experience is not uncommon. She is one of over 300,000 North Carolinians who fall into the Medicaid Gap; those who are not eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, but don’t earn enough to qualify for help paying for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The North Carolina General Assembly has refused to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid in our state, despite the fact that the federal government will cover all costs of the program through 2016, and 90% of costs in future years.
Many states have put politics aside and expanded Medicaid. States like Arizona, Kentucky, and Arkansas have all realized that expanding Medicaid to cover low-income workers is not just humane; it’s the fiscally sound choice. North Carolina has consistently experienced shortfalls in Medicaid funding (often manufactured by politicians who intentionally set budget projections too low), and accepting federal funding would help address this problem. According to a study by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, expanding Medicaid would also create about 25,000 jobs in North Carolina, helping grow our state’s economy.
The Senate Budget, which received preliminary approval on Friday night, refuses to expand Medicaid. Instead, it slashes our state’s Medicaid program even further. An estimated 15,000 blind, aged, and disabled North Carolinians will lose coverage under the current budget proposal. Medicaid providers and hospitals would also receive lower reimbursements for the care they provide, which could leave patients with fewer options.
We need your help to tell lawmakers that North Carolinians deserve better. Join Planned Parenthood and numerous other groups for Medicaid Expansion Lobby Day on Wednesday, June 4th in Raleigh. We will call on legislators to “Stop the Medicaid Blockade” and tell the stories of people like Linda who are directly harmed by the legislature’s brutal inaction. You’ll find more details about the event, including a full list of partners, by clicking here to sign up. See you in Raleigh!
Emily Callen is Wake County Field Director with the Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund.