North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has a busy few weeks ahead as it commences a series of public hearings around the state concerning its plan to privatize the state Medicaid program and obtain a waiver from the Federal government that would approve the scheme.
Yesterday, a large crowd attended the first public hearing session in Raleigh (click here to see the schedule and sign up to attend future public hearings). The hearing was attended by health care providers, administrators, advocates, current Medicaid enrollees, and individuals that would benefit from Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, only two legislators, Rep. Marilyn Avila and Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., were in attendance to hear what people have to say about reform.
One message that rang clear during yesterday’s event was that North Carolina cannot truly transform Medicaid without first expanding the program to the approximately 500,000 people in the Coverage Gap. At the hearing, roughly a third of all of the comments offered called for Medicaid expansion as has been done in so many other states under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Speakers representing organizations such as the American Heart Association, Carolina Jews for Justice, the League of Women Voters, and even a student from NC Central University all spoke on behalf of the child care workers, construction workers, and home health aides that work, but are stuck in the gap.
Before opening the floor to public comment, DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer explained that he and his team have been “crowd sourcing the development of the waiver.” Brajer even presented a slide listing all of the key “stakeholders” that his department has met with during the preparation of the waiver request.
Unfortunately, one group that was clearly missing from the Secretary’s list were the people in the Coverage Gap. These voices need to continue to be heard as access to quality and affordable health care not only positively impacts individual and family health, but community health as well through job growth and economic development.
In the weeks ahead, look for more and more advocates and potential beneficiaries of expansion to speak out for this kind of genuine reform.
- Providers will push for Medicaid expansion so that their patients will no longer have to rely on emergency care and actually be able to obtain primary preventative care.
- Health administrator concerned with health care costs will push for expansion as states with expansion have seen a decrease of 26 percent in uncompensated care costs.
- School teachers will push for expansion because they know that their students will have increased educational outcomes if their parents/caregivers receive Medicaid.
- Business owners will push for expansion because good health is closely linked to job productivity .