Commentary

Health system leader in GOP-dominated eastern NC: Expand Medicaid in 2020

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In case you missed it on New Year’s Day, Michael Waldrum, the head of eastern North Carolina’s Vidant Health system, authored the latest powerful op-ed from a health care leader calling for the expansion of Medicaid.

In “Work together to meet state’s critical 2020 health needs,” Waldrum argued persuasively that eastern North Carolina’s make the need for expansion acute:

Delivering health care in the rural parts of North Carolina is a challenge for many reasons; a high burden of disease, an underserved population, and a growing number of patients relying on Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these challenges, Vidant Health is delivering quality care in the East, but we need the right policies to ensure those in our communities are supported and have access to the professionals they rely on for care.

In 2019, the state watched as labor and delivery services closed in neighboring rural communities. This is tragic. No mother should have to worry about how she is going to get care or where she will deliver her baby.  We see hospitals in rural parts of the country continuing to close their doors and North Carolina is not immune.  This continues to be a crisis and we must do better.

For eastern North Carolina, expanding Medicaid, designing a reasonable solution to resolve State Health Plan liabilities and funding a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University must be a priority for the state.

Expanding Medicaid will improve access to care, something we desperately need not only in the East, but also throughout the state. North Carolinians are subsidizing care in 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid while too many North Carolinians struggle.

After going on to explain the need for better funding for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Waldrum concludes this way:

It is time to look deep inside of ourselves and put aside partisanship, personal petty attacks and uncompromising attitudes in order to do what is right for all North Carolinians. At the end of the day, it is about how we treat each other and our desire to come together to do what is right for those we all serve.

In 2020, we must commit to greater collaboration with a focus on creating a health care system for the state we can all be proud to say we built together.

It seems worth noting that Vidant serves 29 eastern North Carolina counties — counties that are, for the most part, dominated by Republican lawmakers. Let’s hope these lawmakers are listening to one of their region’s most important health care leaders. Click here to read the entire essay.

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