Editorial: Legislators should heed protesters' message on Medicaid

Posted May 31, 2017 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2017 1:32 p.m. EDT

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, May 31, 2017; Editorial # 8167
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Leaders of North Carolina’s General Assembly can’t silence the truth by arresting the messengers and sending them off to jail.

The legislators’ refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, denying health care coverage to half a million North Carolinians, should be of far more concern than the protesters who interrupted their comfort and convenience.

The state budgets from both the Senate and House fail to take any significant action to extend health care to North Carolinians in need. Things aren’t much different in Washington where the “American Health Care Act,” the GOP-backed repeal and replacement for Obamacare will result in 23 million Americans losing health care coverage they have now. The bill, now before the U.S. Senate, narrowly passed the House of Representatives with backing from nine of North Carolina’s 10 GOP representatives.

And the uncertainty over the latest federal scheme for sharing the costs of insurance payments is already increasing health care costs in North Carolina. Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. announced a 22.9 percent rate hike.

“The biggest single reason for that rate increase is the lack of the federal funding for CSRs (cost sharing reductions) in 2018,” Brad Wilson, the Blue Cross CEO, told a reporter for VOX. “We cannot assume nor should we that the money is going to be there based on what we know today. The president and the administration have made several statements about CSRs that don’t give any comfort that they will be available.”

Contrast that with President Donald Trump’s boast about health care just five days before he was inaugurated.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

But we saw last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, begs to differ.

There is no clear rational for North Carolina’s failure to extend health care coverage. The irrational – blind hatred of former President Barack Obama -- and irresponsible failure to act by the General Assembly comes at a real cost in addition to the 500,000 who lack coverage.

Expanding health coverage helps with the financial viability of rural hospitals. Refusal to take the federal funding and expand coverage has cost the state:

  • $9.6 billion in federal funds that haven’t come to North Carolina, but support expanding health care in other states.
  • 40,565 new jobs that would have been created.
  • Between 1,545 and 4,155 lives lost due of lack of health coverage and access to care.

Is despising President Obama and wanting to stick it to the Democrats worth that?

The state House of Representatives still has some time to get health care right. Over the next few weeks, legislators should devote themselves to expanding health coverage to those without it, with the same devotion they show toward extending corporate tax breaks to those who already get plenty.

BY THE NUMBERS: Costs of denying health insurance in N.C.
2014-16 Jan.-May 2017 TOTAL
Diabetics without medication* 81,132 11,270 92,312
Annual mammograms missed* 36,153 5,020 41,174
Deaths* 3,435 to 1,355 725 to 190 4,155 to 1,545
Federal Funding Lost** $9 billion $606 million $9.606 billion
Jobs Not Created** 34,700 5,865 40,565

*Opting Out Of Medicaid Expansion: The Health And Financial Impacts, Health Affairs Blog
**The Economic and Employment Costs of Not Expanding Medicaid in N.C., Center for Health Policy Research, The George Washington University, Dec. 2014

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