Commentary, Legislature

Legislative fail: Health care special session

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When Rachel Radford made the trip to Raleigh Wednesday morning, she was hoping to get the chance to talk with her legislators about expanding Medicaid.

“So many families like mine have the most unappreciated, most overlooked job to care for children who have special abilities,” said Radford, a parent and advocate from Goldsboro NC. “Unfortunately caring for children with special needs is not a job that comes with health insurance. Every parent needs health coverage so that we can survive to care for our children. We need our legislators to pass Medicaid expansion swiftly.”

Unfortunately Rachel’s legislators weren’t there to listen.

Speaker Moore and Senate Pro Tem Berger had called legislators to Raleigh for a “special session” that was supposed to be about health care. That session was called to order on Tuesday morning. Legislators adjourned and left Raleigh the same day with no budget, and no action on health care.

Once again, legislative leaders did not allow any discussion or vote to expand Medicaid – despite the fact that they have a bipartisan bill on the table in HB 655.

More than half a million North Carolinians, including Rachel and her husband, can’t see a doctor when they need one, because reliable health insurance is out of reach. Children need healthy parents by their sides. And children are more likely to have health coverage and get the care they need, when their parents are covered. To drive that point home, in 2018 the number of uninsured children in North Carolina increased for the second year in a row.

House Speaker Tim Moore promised a House vote on the compromise legislation in September, when House members voted to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget.

“I said, we will actually vote on the Carolina Cares Medicaid bill. I’m going to keep my word. We’re going to vote on that bill,” Moore stated in his press conference after the veto override, adding that the vote would take place the following week.

Months later, the House has still not been allowed to vote on the issue, and the Senate has never even discussed it in a committee meeting. Speaking to NC Health News last week, bill sponsor Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) made it clear that Moore and Berger are the ones standing in the way of action on his compromise bill.

“I think the House is in a good position to move it whenever we decide to do that, whenever leadership decides to give me the okay to move forward,” Lambeth said.

Meanwhile thousands of people in every North Carolina county have no access to affordable health coverage. We need legislative leaders to put political games aside and get the job done.

Three-quarters of states have already accepted the federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs. These states are saving money and getting care to those who need it most, according to dozens of peer-reviewed studies. Kansas just announced they will be the latest “red” state to expand Medicaid.North Carolina should be the next.

Adam Sotak is NC Child’s Public Engagement Director. His article initially appeared on the NC Child website.

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