Commentary, News

Medicaid expansion advocates to hold event in Phil Berger’s district today

As was pointed out in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing (“THE issue of the 2019 session”), an important event will take place today in the home district of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. You can also watch the event as it happens or later, if that’s more convenient, on Facebook.

Here’s the announcement from the good people at the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project:

MEDIA ADVISORY: “A Tale of Two States”—Doctors, patients make case for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina

WHAT: Press conference
WHO: Doctors, patients, community advocates from Rockingham County
WHEN: Tuesday, January 29, 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Hospital Simulation Room, Owens Human Services Building on Rockingham Community College Campus, 562 County Home Road in Reidsville, NC. Parking will be available in parking lot “E”. See campus map for directions.

A day before the NC General Assembly convenes in Raleigh, the NC Justice Center will hold a press conference with doctors, patients, and community advocates from the border communities of Rockingham County, NC, and Danville, Va., to make the case for why North Carolina should expand Medicaid.

Last year Virginia became the 33rd state to expand Medicaid and has just begun to reap the benefits of expansion with more than 200,000 Virginians enrolled for coverage. After five years of inaction on Medicaid Expansion, the Tar Heel state has the 6th highest uninsured population in the nation, leading to poor health outcomes, soaring medical debt, and ultimately lives lost.

“For more than 30 years, I have watched my patients with no insurance pay a terrible price,” said Dr. Stephen Luking, a family physician who has practiced medicine in Rockingham County for 30 years. “I’ve seen women die of invasive breast cancer and cervical cancer when they couldn’t afford mammograms and preventive checkups. I’ve hospitalized patients who stopped their medicines so they could pay other bills.”

Just over the border, our neighbors are seeing a brighter future.

“Medicaid expansion in Virginia means that our most vulnerable patients will now have access to more health services, our providers can refer them for specialty care, and diagnostic testing and the overall cost of health care will go down for everyone,” says Kay Crane, CEO of Piedmont Access to Health Services.

“I just got coverage thanks to Medicaid expansion,” said Jean Jackson, a community leader and member of Virginia Organizing. “I went without insurance for a year after having to retire because I couldn’t drive at night due to my cataracts. I danced when I got that letter in the mail. I’m finally able to have my cataracts removed. I’m so excited to be able to see again! Medicaid expansion has already made such a difference for me. I hope North Carolina will be the next state to expand Medicaid so more people get the help they need.”

Medicaid expansion will also help alleviate the opioid crisis which has hit Rockingham County particularly hard by allowing people who struggle with chaotic drug use and addiction to get the help that they need. Rockingham County had an opiate overdose death rate of 14 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the state average of 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people from 2013-2017.

“Things really spiraled out of control for me after my pregnancy Medicaid coverage ended,” says Christy Solomon, who has lived in both Virginia and Rockingham County. “If I had the ability to get Medicaid, I could have a regular provider that would help me deal with these issues, which would make staying in recovery a little easier.”

Reidsville Mayor Jay Donecker knows the benefits expansion will bring to his city.

“Studies have shown that citizens living in rural cities and counties like Reidsville and Rockingham County will experience better healthcare and better health outcomes with Medicaid expansion,” Mayor Donecker said. “Other studies have shown that rural hospitals like Annie Penn Hospital and Morehead Hospital would be on better financial footing following Medicaid expansion and less apt to close. Finally, those working for minimum wages in North Carolina will be able to access better health care with Medicaid expansion.”

If the NC General Assembly expanded Medicaid, 4,408 people would be able to get coverage in Rockingham County alone. Just over 10,000 people are uninsured in this border community and more than 18 percent of people live in poverty (100 percent of the federal poverty level), meaning that a family of four survives on little more than $25,000 in Rockingham County.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT Hyun Namkoong, NC Justice Center, (919) 218-4505, Hyun@ncjustice.org; Julia Hawes, julia@ncjustice.org, 919.863.2406

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