NAACP renews push for Medicaid expansion

Posted March 2, 2015

A coalition of groups continued to pressure North Carolina lawmakers on June 4, 2014, to rethink their decision not to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

— With the Affordable Care Act headed for the U.S. Supreme Court this week, the NAACP and Democratic state lawmakers are renewing calls for North Carolina to accept the law's Medicaid expansion.

The case before the court, King v. Burwell, challenges the legality of federal subsidies for health insurance in the 34 states, including North Carolina, that did not set up their own state exchanges, choosing instead to use the federal marketplace. Foes of the law say four words in it should allow subsidies only in states with their own exchanges.

If the Supreme Court agrees, it could mean the end of coverage subsidies for around half a million North Carolinians, warned Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, at a news conference Monday morning.

"It could be devastating to the Carolinas," Gill said. "Insurance companies, medical professionals and others may lose their financial stability."

Yet, Gill and state NAACP President Rev. William Barber say the state should accept the federal Medicaid expansion provided under another section of the ACA.

Gov. Pat McCrory and Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said last month they won't advance any expansion proposal until the Supreme Court makes a decision in the King case because its outcome could have "many ramifications" on the ACA.

Barber accused McCrory and Republican legislative leaders of "stonewalling," noting that they've implemented laws they favored, such as voter photo ID and school vouchers, despite ongoing litigation.

"People can bring cases over and over and over again," Barber said. "But the Medicaid program in the Affordable Care Act has already been proven to be constitutional, and we should be acting in accordance with that."

Under the ACA's original design, states would have been required to expand Medicaid to cover low-income working adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $27,000 for a family of three. Those making more are eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for health insurance.

But the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could not be forced to expand their Medicaid programs, even though the federal government would cover virtually all the cost.

In North Carolina and other states that declined to accept Medicaid expansion, people making between 100 and 138 percent of poverty level fall into what's known as the "Medicaid gap" – they don't qualify for subsidies because they were intended to be on Medicaid instead.

Republican legislative leaders have repeatedly said they won't expand Medicaid under the ACA. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in January, "There is no good case to be made" for expansion."

"That's flawed logic," Barber said. "They didn't allow North Carolinians to make the case."

Barber says the expansion would cover hundreds of thousands of working poor who can't afford coverage, would help struggling rural hospitals and would boost economic activity and job creation.

While many states with Republican leaders have chosen to accept Medicaid expansion, Barber pointed out that almost none have been in the South, where some 60 percent of black Americans live. He called it "the new political civil war."

"He [McCrory] Berger and Stam and them are standing in the doorway of hospitals. You can imagine how those old governors stood in the doorway of universities and schools. They’re standing in the doorway of hospitals and access to health care for people who need it," Barber said.

The NAACP and political allies are holding what they're calling a "people's grand jury" to hear testimony from doctors, gravely ill patients without access to health care and community leaders who favor expansion. The group's attorneys are listening for legal bases to "bring charges" against state leaders, from violations of the equal protection clause to potential wrongful death claims.

"There is no good reason to be denying Medicaid expansion," Barber told reporters, "and there is every good reason – morally, personally, from the health perspective and the economic perspective – to in fact expand Medicaid in North Carolina."


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  • Mike C Mar 3, 2015
    user avatar

    If Barber and his cronies are so upset with the way our elected officials are doing their job, why don't some of them run for office and make the changes from within the legal system instead of trying to bully the elected officials into doing what they want? Oh yeah, I forgot, that would be too much like work.

  • Proudly Unaffiliated Mar 3, 2015
    user avatar

    Memo to all NC Republicans: ObamaCare is an ongoing, rolling disaster and the further you can stay away from this, the better we will all be. Do not play with fire. Do not expand anything from the feds, contract it instead.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 2, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Actually it's true, if the Court follows the law as actually written the illegal subsidies the feds are giving people in states like North Carolina that have not set up their own exchanges will have to stop unless Congress changes the law.

    Back on topic, of course Billy Bob Barber and his fellow travelers want the Medicaid expansion. They don't care than the system is already broken and that that federal money (actually OUR money) comes with huge strings attached that could devastate our budget within a very few years.

  • Matt Price Mar 2, 2015
    user avatar

    "If the Supreme Court agrees, it could mean the end of coverage subsidies for around half a million North Carolinians, warned Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake"

    Fear Mongering.

  • Clovis Sangrail Mar 2, 2015
    user avatar

    The fact is that the Federal government is only giving "free" money for a couple of years. Beyond that the State is on the hook for a greater and greater portion of the funding for the expansion.

    And Medicaid costs grow at a rate much waster than the rest of the budget and there is every reason to expect that the expansion pool will exhibit the same kind of inflation.

    This will cost billions. And some taxpayer some where has to pay it. Its not "free money" like Barber seems to think.