Editorial: Repeal the ban, expand Medicaid in N.C. now

Posted January 30, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

Demonstrators say the refusal by state lawmakers to expand Medicaid is killing thousands of North Carolinians.

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019; Editorial #8386
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

North Carolinians are asked: What’s the first priority for the 2019 General Assembly?

Their overwhelming response: Expand Medicaid.

There’s nothing new about that. It has been the prevailing sentiment for nearly a decade. It’s been that long since the federal Recovery Act made it possible to expand access to health care, almost entirely at federal expense, to about 650,000 North Carolinians who are now denied it.

There is little opposition. It has broad support across political party lines, in the business community and among the state’s hospitals and doctors.

So, why hasn’t this happened?

Because the doctrinaire conservative establishment has made it an ideological litmus test. The legislative leadership does what it is told. In 2013 it passed a law that BANS MEDICAID EXPANSION.

As a result North Carolina has lost out on $11.5 billion in federal aid while 36 states, led by Republicans and Democrats, have provided health coverage to millions who otherwise would be denied.

Opponents to expansion believe the coverage is not necessary because the people who will benefit are lazy good-for-nothing freeloaders merely taking advantage of the system.

That is wrong. Those who would qualify are, in fact, the “working poor” and their families who don’t make enough to afford health coverage, but too much to be eligible for current health assistance.

With the opening of the 2019 General Assembly session, it is time to quickly REPEAL the ban on Medicaid expansion and get down to work passing a responsible program to provide services to those who would become eligible.

Let’s be upfront. The opposition is rooted in blind prejudice against ANYTHING initiated by former President Barack Obama. It drives reflexive opposition to programs like Medicaid expansion.

We are long past time to get over all that.

Gov. Roy Cooper has made it a top priority to expand Medicaid. He’s signaled his administration’s willingness to compromise with those who demand some kind of work requirement in return for receiving health coverage aid.

Several Republicans mostly in the state House of Representatives and including House Speaker Tim Moore, have expressed some openness to moving ahead with Medicaid expansion. Opposition in the state Senate, imposed by that chamber’s leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has been more strident.

Tuesday, Medicaid expansion advocates were in Berger’s home county to drive home the need. Berger wasn’t present, but it was a message he needed to hear and acknowledge of how his constituents are being left out and left behind.

It would only take a few days – and we know from experience these are legislators who can move legislation at lightning speed – to pass the repeal.

Repeal the ban now. Get down to work to pass a program, too long delayed, that provides affordable access to health services to 650,000 citizens who have been too long denied.

This has gone on long enough. Citizens need let their legislators know if they don’t support Medicaid expansion now they won’t be getting support in the 2020 election.

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