Archived Opinion

Medicaid expansion is badly needed

Medicaid expansion is badly needed

To the Editor: 

More than one million North Carolinians (12.9%) have no health insurance. 

As in many things, the people of WNC are not doing as well as the state as a whole. In N.C. House District 119 (Haywood, Jackson, Swain) there are over 19,000 uninsured people (16.9%). Haywood has 9,189 uninsured (14.8%), Jackson has 7,846 uninsured (18.2%), and Swain has 3,233 uninsured (22.9%). 

Many of these people fall in the “Medicaid coverage gap” — they cannot afford to buy health insurance without fear of bankruptcy. The majority are working adults, between 18 and 64 years of age, without dependent children. Most live paycheck to paycheck, many hold two or more part-time jobs. All of us have a family member or neighbor who lives in the gap, playing Russian roulette with their health. Expanding Medicaid will help close the coverage gap which can save lives and preserve the health of working families across WNC. 

The Medicaid coverage gap hits our mountain home especially hard. Medicaid expansion can bring billions of federal dollars to our state. Only 11 other states have rejected Medicaid expansion (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).  Here’s how it works for the other 38 states. The federal government pays 90% of the costs of Medicaid expansion and the state pays just 10% of the tab. Right now, N.C. citizens pay federal taxes at the same rate as these states but we do not receive the 90% back. N.C. is giving away your hard-earned tax dollars to these 38 states. Does it make sense to give all that money away? Expanding Medicaid would net NC $1.2 billion in just two years! 

Medicaid expansion brings increased medical care to people with chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease. This not only saves lives but results in fewer health crises, ER visits and hospital days. Treatment options for people with mental health issues are critical, especially here in WNC. Medicaid expansion is exactly what is needed to combat our growing opioid crisis. Out of desperation, people with untreated medical/mental health issues often self-medicate with alcohol or illegal/illicit drugs. In addition to improved health, Medicaid expansion will help to keep our rural hospitals open. This brings jobs and with it, a boost to the local economy. 

Please contact your N.C. Senate and House representatives to support Medicaid expansion. It makes sense. It brings money to N.C. It saves lives and livelihoods. It brings jobs. We can do better. 

Elaine Slocumb 

Bryson City

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