Commentary, public health

New poll: Closing the coverage gap is wildly popular in North Carolina

In case you missed it, 75% of North Carolinians support closing the coverage gap, according to results from a poll commissioned by Care4Carolina — a coalition working to improve health care and expand access in North Carolina. The survey of 612 registered voters, conducted by Harper Polling and The Stewart Group from August 26-27, found that a solid majority want to ensure that more have access to health care, while only 16% oppose. This support is not limited to singular political ideologies as 64% of self-identified Republicans, 76% of unaffiliated voters and 83% of Democrats favor closing the coverage gap in the state.

Amid a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans and has infected almost 180,000 North Carolinians, voters in the state continue to recognize the importance of health care access. Most voters see dealing with COVID-19 as the most critical election issue of the 2020 cycle with 61% believing that closing the coverage gap is of significant importance.

Since 2010, the General Assembly has refused to adopt Medicaid expansion, intentionally leaving at least 600,000 of our neighbors without access to quality health care. Even in the midst of a pandemic that has robbed 1.1 million North Carolinians of their jobs, a further 367,000 losing their employer-sponsored health insurance, which pushed 178,000 more into the coverage gap, leaders in the General Assembly have refused to allow legislation to move forward to address this crisis. In fact, during the recent floor debate around HB 1105, Representative Donnie Lambeth, the primary conservative sponsor for closing the coverage gap, proclaimed that the state could not expand Medicaid because the program itself was going through transformation and was broken. This thinking does not seem to square with the rest of North Carolina, let alone his home county. Voters in Senate District 31 (Forsyth and Davie) approve closing the coverage gap 69 % to 26%.

Why do legislators continue to deny expanding Medicaid when voters continue to support it? This past short session addressing state needs around the pandemic was an incredible opportunity to expand Medicaid. Too many North Carolinians are wondering what they would do if they get sick and need access to health care. A $335 check is not going to provide the working mother of one, earning minimum wage, the health care she needs. It is our sincere hope that during an economic downturn caused by a global pandemic that our state leaders would come back to session and do what is right by their constituents. They need to expand Medicaid.

You can find the full poll results here.

William Munn is a policy analyst in the the North Carolina Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project.

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