GALE ADCOCK: Expanding Medicaid continues 50-year legacy of essential healthcare for all

Posted August 1, 2021 9:17 a.m. EDT

Democratic lawmakers and advocates held an Oct. 28, 2013, news conference calling for a special legislative session to expand North Carolina's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gale Adcock is in her fourth term representing Wake County in the N.C. House of Representatives.  She is a family nurse practitioner and Deputy Democratic Leader state House.

Fifty-six years ago President Lyndon Johnson built upon the legacy of FDR’s New Deal to propel America toward a brighter, healthier future. In pursuit of that goal LBJ centered Medicare as his major legislative goal -- a federally funded, low-cost program for aged Americans. The same bill brought us Medicaid, a program designed to provide health care to poor children and people with disabilities.

Today, the foundation built by that landmark legislation remains essential for so many. Medicare and Medicaid have stood the test of time.  More than half a century later we must recommit to these programs and ensure they are adequately funded and supported.  We cannot rest on our laurels, because so many health care challenges remain.

As our nation continues to battle the coronavirus, historic inequities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Now is our chance to put essential programs like Medicare and Medicaid on solid footing, to ensure that every North Carolinian has access to affordable health care.

Every year, North Carolina misses out on billions of dollars in health care funds because we refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid is a simple step that would have far-reaching effects.

More people will get the medicine and treatment they need, including those with substance abuse issues. More rural hospitals will be able to stay afloat, providing life-saving services to people across the state.  More money will be injected into the North Carolina economy, creating jobs in local communities.  Studies also show that in states where Medicaid was expanded, health care premium costs have dropped for everyone.

As a family nurse practitioner, I see the need for Medicaid expansion every day. The 38 states that have already expanded Medicaid have improved the health status of their citizens and the economic condition of their state.  Not a single state to expand Medicaid has reversed course.  We need to make the same smart decision.

North Carolinians cannot afford to let another year pass without Medicaid expansion. States like Kentucky and Virginia have already taken the right step.  The best way for us to live up to the legacy of trailblazing legislation like Medicare and Medicaid is to ensure that we continue to do what is best for North Carolinians.  Expanding Medicaid is a common-sense step toward a more prosperous and healthy state.

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