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Republican mayor from eastern NC issues emotional call for Medicaid expansion

Adam O'Neal

Mayor Adam O’Neal – photo credit Twitter.com

“You can’t close hospitals and let people die to prove a point.” So spoke the conservative Republican mayor of Belhaven, North Carolina, Adam O’Neal, this morning at a press conference at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh.

O’Neal’s appearance (and his linking of hands with Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP) was the highlight of a powerful event at which advocates called on Gov. McCrory and legislative leaders to reverse course and admit that their ideologically-driven decision to refuse to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the terms of the Affordable Care Act is threatening the physical health of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians and the financial health of dozens of hospitals — especially ones located in poorer, rural communities like Mayor O’Neal’s.

O’Neal’s speech was an especially moving and courageous act by a man who claimed to disagree with Rev. Barber on most issues and who obviously placed any political ambitions he might harbor at risk by so publicly breaking with the leaders of his own party. But it was also obviously heartfelt and genuine — a fact that made it all the more powerful.

Medicaid event

Mayor O’Neal watches House Democratic leader Larry Hall address pro-Medicaid expansion press conference

O’Neal’s action today was also clearly motivated by facts “on the ground” in his own community. As has been reported here previously, the rural hospital in Belhaven, Vidant Pungo Hospital, has been on life support in recent months due to the state’s failure to expand Medicaid.

According to O’Neal it is simply wrong to, in effect, force the rural citizens of communities like his Beaufort County to become “soldiers” in an ideological battle.

Let’s hope O’Neal’s message resonates with Gov. McCrory, Speaker Tillis and SenateĀ Pro Tem Berger and that, at a minimum, it signifies the emergence of a widening crack in the opposition of North Carolina conservatives to Medicaid expansion (as has occurred in so many other states).

The bottom line: Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.

9 Comments

  1. Claire B

    June 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Just saw you on MSNBC, and congratulations, Mayor, for speaking out on Medicare for your state!

  2. alwaysaskWHY

    June 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    A REFRESHING change in one (unfortunately ONLY 1) Republican’s mental thought processes… very hopeful… and Mayor Adam O’Neal of Belhaven, NC is a shining example of Courageous Truth Telling!

    THANK YOU, MAYOR O’NEAL!!!

  3. Jan S

    June 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I just want to say: Thank you sir! Just saw footage where you took a stand supporting Medicaid expansion. Thank God for people with common sense and also I think that took GUTS to go against party lines in favor of just doing the right thing. You are my hero of the day.

  4. LayintheSmakDown

    June 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Now see this is a bit dramatic. We have these things called “motor cars” that can take people the 49 miles to Greenville for situations where a hospital is needed. Probably a better option for such a small town is an urgent care clinic or two.

  5. Alan

    June 5, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Well, Prof. LSD (or is it simply Dr. LSD?), your insightful wisdom on the medical needs of the state are truly remarkable. Let’s face it, is someone is in urgent need of life saving medical assistance, perhaps they suffered a massive heart attack or a stroke, then all they need to do is just get in the car, and drive the 49 miles “to Greenville for situations where a hospital is needed”. This I assume is the state GOP plan for “care in the community”? How comforting it must be to know the state GOP is concerned about the health & well being of the average citizen. I’ll make sure I keep a full tank of gas in my old jalopy for when that massive heart attack arrives.

    Keep up the good work Prof/Dr. LSD, you’re doing a great job for the state GOP. Seriously, I mean it, I don’t think we could ask for a better representative of all things GOP here in NC.

  6. diane

    June 6, 2014 at 1:08 am

    I am from Louisiana and we are told how lucky we are to have such a fine health-care expert as Bobby Jindal. Ha! This man campaigned on education reform and all he has done is gut, gut, gut. As far as Medicaid is concerned, he is absolutely towing the Republican line. I wish we had more people like you who will stand up for what is, at the very least, ethically correct. Progressive can be both democratic and republican. A country is only as good as the least of our citizens. Congratulations on your courage to take a stand.

  7. lynn

    June 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Alan, great reply! These are some impoverished folks that cannot even afford to go around the block because they don’t own a “motor car,” as Laysinthesmakdown suggests. I am happy the mayor of Belhaven spoke out!

  8. Pam

    June 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    We need more Republicans in office who have common sense and see the big picture instead of trying to turn our state into a Fiefdom. All people matter and he is working for the people in which most seem to have forgotten is what the leaders of our state are elected to do. Hoorah!!

  9. LayintheSmakDown

    June 6, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Well Troll Alan/ML…..TLDR.