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In NC, Medicaid expansion remains off of the table as vulnerable communities face pandemic

By, Natalie Niemeyer / Jessica Coscia


As COVID-19 spreads through communities around the world, we’re reminded of North Carolina’s elected officials’ many missed opportunities to help our most vulnerable populations as a result of the failure to expand Medicaid.


Medicaid has a proven track record of providing people access to coverage and support through times of economic and health crises. And, North Carolina is one of just 14 states across the U.S. that has not yet expanded Medicaid — and we need elected officials, including Senators Thom Tillis and Richar Burr — to fight for us.


Another non-expansion state, Kansas, has been embroiled in a Medicaid expansion battle and recently announced its first death from COVID-19.


A critical factor in containing the spread of the virus is ensuring that people who need testing and treatment can get it as soon as possible. But in Kansas, like in North Carolina, where hundreds of thousands are caught in a coverage gap, it is inevitable that many of those most in need will avoid getting care because they can’t afford the cost - particularly in rural communities.


A recent report on the state of rural health care shows how Medicaid expansion opened the door to health coverage for roughly 10 million people, providing them the opportunity to go to the doctor when they’re sick to get the care they need to keep themselves and their families safe and without fear of medical debt.


So, at a time when rural areas – more than ever – need access to affordable health care, why wouldn’t our lawmakers like Senator Tillis support it? And why would he be proud of his leading role in stopping Medicaid when he was Speaker of the North Carolina House?


Still, under the new threat of a widespread coronavirus pandemic, the number of unnecessary deaths can be expected to rise in non-expansion states like North Carolina.


Look no further for proof than the fact that North Carolina has one of the largest uninsured populations in the country, along with other non-expansion states.


The impacts of our refusal to expand Medicaid are alarming at best and catastrophic at worst. 1,400 lives have been lost in our state that could have been saved if these individuals had access to health care through Medicaid. Three-quarters of the 500,000 people who would gain coverage are currently living in poverty.


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