In case you missed it, there was a fine story on NBC News last week that highlighted North Carolina’s failure to expand Medicaid, and the huge and unnecessary problems it was causing for uninsured people even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Among other things, “Coronavirus challenges states that rejected Medicaid expansion, leaves uninsured with few options” tells the sobering story of a family physician who practices in Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s district confronting the crisis.
William Luking, a doctor in rural North Carolina who runs a clinic with his brother about 25 miles north of Greensboro, said he treated one of his regular patients last week who had a dry, hacking cough and trouble breathing. The longtime patient turned scarlet when Luking said he should go to the hospital.
Amid wheezing and a severe fever, Luking’s patient said he couldn’t afford that kind of care. He didn’t have insurance.
“How many folks with this virus are going to be making the same decision?” Luking asked, noting that Medicaid expansion would have provided his patient hospital access. “That same scenario will play itself out here real quickly with folks soldiering on doing their minimum wage work while carrying the virus without seeking care. It has all the makings of a disaster.”
Luking and doctors like him have gone to great lengths to treat their patients and made personal sacrifices because, as he said, “We’re not going to fold up shop now.”
But there’s a risk that they may have to. Luking said because he will mostly have to move to doctor’s visits over the phone, he will see fewer reimbursements and payments and a greater number of uninsured patients. He’s prepared to zero-out his own salary but fears he may soon have to lay off members of his staff to keep his facility afloat.
Meanwhile, in today’s Washington Post, Prof. Jonathan Gruber of MIT lays out three steps the U.S. must take to care for the huge surge in uninsured sick people that’s coming — both as a result of the failure to expand Medicaid in states like North Carolina and the huge number of people who are becoming uninsured through job losses. Here’s the conclusion:
First, we should suspend insurance network restrictions for covid-19 patients. Patients should be able to go to the provider that is best for them, and for the community, regardless of network restrictions. Read more