Gov. McCrory denies Medicaid expansion for N.C.By Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer
Published: March 4, 2013
Governor Pat McCrory’s decision to stop the expansion of Medicaid to 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians has caused groups across the state to band together and take action.
On Feb. 18, health professionals from across the Triad and state held a press conference at Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine’s (TAPM) HealthServe Community Clinic in Greensboro to raise awareness of the importance of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.
“We hope that with raised awareness that other citizens will ask N.C. Governor Pat McCrory to reconsider his position on rejecting Medicaid Expansion. Other Republican governors have embraced Medicaid expansion. It doesn’t have to be a partisan issue,” said Robin Lane, pediatric nurse practitioner at Outstanding Kids, an organization that provides nurse practitioner and consulting services in the Triad area.
Earlier this month, both the state Senate and House passed bills rejecting the expansion of Medicaid in N.C. Both bills mandate that the state of North Carolina opt out of the expansion of Medicaid. However, Medicaid expansion is 100 percent paid for by federal money over the next three years under the Affordable Care Act. After the three years, the federal government will never pay less than 90 percent of the cost.
On a state level, there are more than 500,000 low-income North Carolinians who could receive Medicaid healthcare coverage if Medicaid were expanded. According to TAPM, locally, out of the 54,000 patients it serves at six clinics, 70 percent of the adult patients and five percent of pediatric patients are uninsured.
Medicaid is government health insurance that covers children, the disabled, poor senior citizens and very few low-income adults. It costs about $14 billion a year in North Carolina and helps roughly 1.6 million people. “Under the federal Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010, states have the option to expand the criteria so more individuals could qualify for Medicaid,” said Brian Ellerby, executive director of TAPM.
Ellerby noted that uninsured patients who go to the Emergency Room for non-urgent healthcare needs, in turn cost the community more money. “And who pays for that bill? We all do through cost-shifting. That cost gets passed down the line, from hospitals to insurance companies, then to employers who pay higher premiums for their insured employees. Eventually, it gets passed on to anyone who is working, again through higher premiums, higher hospital costs, or higher co-pays,” Ellerby said.
The N.C. NAACP has voiced its dissatisfaction with the bills halting Medicaid expansion. In a letter written to the governor, State NAACP President, Rev. William Barber penned, “When you reject Medicaid expansion, you create disparate impacts on African Americans, other minorities, the poor, and the disabled in a time when many have not recovered from the Recession, when many families are in desperate need of a social safety net.”
McCrory delivered his State of the State address Monday, February 18, in the House chambers at the state Legislature Building in Raleigh. He addressed the topics of unemployment, education, the economy and jobs.
The governor briefly pledged to confront the state’s high unemployment rate just a week after a bill was passed in the General Assembly that would cut unemployment benefits from $535 to $350 a week, impacting 170,000 North Carolinians. Referring to the $2.5 billion debt the state owes the federal government in unemployment benefits, McCrory said, “I know one thing, borrowing from Washington with no idea or plan of how to pay for it ends with this administration, right now.” North Carolina currently has a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, the fifth highest in the country.
McCrory signed a measure earlier on Monday that requires the state to label high school diplomas as “career ready,” “college ready” or both after graduation. The effort is designed to put an emphasis on vocational education, an area of concentration for the governor, who campaigned on creating two tracks in the state’s education system to prepare students to fill needed jobs.
According to sources, McCrory received the education measure at the same time he received the bill to cut unemployment benefits for the state’s jobless workers.
McCrory signed the controversial unemployment benefits bill into law on Tuesday.
Democratic lawmakers are concerned that McCrory’s ideas on education and tax “reform” are codes for continuing to cut more and more from public schools.
McCrory also asked legislators to pass legislation that would restore money to drug treatment courts and impose heavier penalties on people who manufacture methamphetamines.