Commentary

Local conservative group kicks off effort to make sure uninsured North Carolinians stay that way

There are a lot of ways to characterize the relentless, years-long effort of conservative ideologues across the country to oppose Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. “Destructive,” “wrong-headed,” “misguided,” “uninformed,” and “downright cruel” are just a few of the descriptors that come readily to mind.

As has been documented repeatedly, in the 37 states where it has taken place, Medicaid expansion has been boon to the health and well-being of millions of working people and their families, injected billions of dollars into local economies, created tens of thousands of jobs, and helped preserve large parts of the healthcare infrastructure — particularly in numerous rural and lower-income areas.

More recently, researchers have discovered that states which have expanded Medicaid are much better prepared to handle the ongoing collapse in employer-provided health insurance coverage that’s been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is Medicaid perfect? Of course not. Like our private health insurance system, Medicaid can be bureaucratic and clunky at times. It’s run by often under-resourced humans who make mistakes and sometimes apply maddeningly complicated rules.

When one gets down to the very basics, though, there’s one undeniable fact about Medicaid and Medicaid expansion: it saves human lives. As Ohio’s former Republican governor John Kasich put it when he embraced expansion for his state years ago:

“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

In states Like North Carolina, which leave large percentages of their populations uninsured because of their refusal to expand, thousands of people have suffered (and will continue to suffer) premature death simply because they couldn’t (and can’t) afford to go to the doctor. This is a problem that is growing worse by the day during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, despite this mountain of evidence, the people on Right-wing Avenue remain as committed as ever to their Scrooge-like cause. Earlier this week, for instance, the John Locke Foundation kicked off a “new feature” that it says is designed to inform candidates for office. The subject of the first entry: why “Medicaid expansion is a bad idea.”

Not surprisingly, there’s nothing new or persuasive in the tired list of anti-expansion excuses provided — especially during a time in which the state if suffering from an unprecedented public health crisis.

Sadly, however, this new effort will probably help to assure that Republican leaders do what they’re told and adhere to the party line handed down by the Trumpist plutocrats who drive the nation’s conservative movement agenda.

Would that the people driving this cruel initiative would be forced to explain their position face-to-face to the loved ones of the North Carolinains whose lives will be shortened as a result.

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