State legislators do not return to Raleigh until late April, but leaders in one Haywood County community are going on record now urging the General Assembly to take action to pass Medicaid expansion.
The Waynesville town board unanimously passed a resolution last week calling for Medicaid expansion, desperately needed by the region’s medical community.
Here’s how reporter Becky Johnson reported that meeting in The Mountaineer:
Republican lawmakers who have resisted Medicaid expansion claim it would cost too much. But the irony is that failing to expand Medicaid has actually cost the state more, according to those who spoke at the hearing.
People without health insurance don’t get the early, preventative care they need, and instead wait until they are in dire straits before ending up in the emergency room.
“It’s snowballing and they are showing up in the ER on the tail end of their illness,” said Rod Harkleroad, the CEO of Haywood Regional Medical Center, who was one of those who spoke at the public hearing.
By then, they need far more expensive treatment, and society ends up picking up the tab for anyway, Harkleroad said. The unpaid medical bills are ultimately passed down in the form of higher insurance premiums and medical costs to everyone else.
Haywood Regional Medical Center has to write off $24 million a year in charity care for patients who can’t pay their medical bills. Of the 50,000 patients who come through the ER at Haywood Regional, around one-third don’t have insurance. Those stats demonstrate the pattern of the uninsured waiting until their health is in crisis before getting care.
It’s estimated that there are 3,400 residents in Haywood County without insurance who could benefit from expansion.
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Conservative lawmakers in the state Senate have blocked any effort to expand Medicaid coverage, making North Carolina one of just 14 states to reject expansion and additional federal funds.