Raleigh, N.C. — A group that included health care professionals on Thursday called for state officials to provide more information to people about changes to health care regulations under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Protect Your Care NC argues that Gov. Pat McCrory and Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos are undercutting the law in North Carolina by refusing to expand the Medicaid program and not providing people with the information they need to sign up for health insurance coverage.
"They're missing in action. They're not out there talking about how we can find affordable health care," said Candice Davies, of Protect Your Care.
Under the law, people can start signing up for health coverage Oct. 1 through an online marketplace, called a health exchange. The exchange allows people to compare coverage and costs of dozens of plans and select the one that best meets their needs.
"As people come to the health insurance marketplace, some of them will have health care coverage for the first time in their lives," said Brenda Cleary, a retired nurse.
The federal government is operating North Carolina's exchange because state lawmakers and McCrory declined to participate in the process. Also, the state blocked an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act that would have covered an extra 500,000 low-income people in North Carolina who lack health coverage.
When McCrory signed the legislation in March, he said that the Medicaid system needed to be fixed before it could be expanded, citing repeated cost overruns that chewed up chunks of the state budget.
On Wednesday, the governor said he and Wos have had several recent meetings to try to understand the impact the new health care law will have on North Carolina residents and businesses and that he would provide an update next week.
WRAL News also obtained a Sept. 18 memo from DHHS to encourage county social services offices to enroll eligible children in Medicaid while processing food stamps or other public assistance applications. DSS officials also should allow so-called "navigator" groups assisting people with the new health law to work in the county offices, the memo states.
DHHS also produced informational handouts about the health exchange and Medicaid for county offices to give to uninsured people.
Davies said during a Thursday demonstration outside Department of Health and Human Services offices in Raleigh that such efforts are late in coming and might not provide the support North Carolina residents need.
"I hope he's coming up with some awesome ideas," Davies said. "I hope they are able to front some really creative improvements for the act and bring that to the table and work that into the act to improve it so we all end up with a better product.
"But my gut reaction is wolf, wolf, wolf. Show me the money," she said.