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Dems still push Medicaid expansion

Medicaid OIC.jpg

A vigil held last week at OIC in Rocky Mount honored North Carolinians who have died due to the Medicaid coverage gap.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Monday, June 10, 2019

Democratic lawmakers from the Twin Counties are calling for Medicaid expansion and decrying what they see as attacks on health care in eastern North Carolina in the state Senate's budget.

“Health care is critical to eastern North Carolina citizens and to job creation and higher wages in our communities. On Thursday, the N.C. Senate gave initial approval to a state budget that directly attacks health care services and jobs in eastern North Carolina. This attack was motivated by a petty argument over political appointments," according to a statement signed by state Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, state Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, and several other legislators from Halifax, Northampton, Pitt and surrounding counties.

Expanding Medicaid would mean more than 4,733 people could gain coverage in Nash County and an estimated 2,871 people could gain coverage in Edgecombe County, according to research provided by pro-expansion organizations.

“We oppose political attacks on eastern North Carolina and our people, and we oppose the $35 million Medicaid reimbursement cut the Senate budget employs to attack Vidant Health. Such a penalty will only hurt the patients, doctors, nurses and communities that Vidant serves," according to the statement. “Additionally, North Carolina is at risk of missing another opportunity to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid will close the coverage gap for hundreds of thousands of eastern North Carolina citizens and bring thousands of health care jobs. No region of the state will benefit more than us. It’s past time we join our neighbors in southeastern Virginia in expanding Medicaid and bringing the federal dollars we send to DC back to eastern North Carolina. We encourage citizens, businesses and health care professionals to contact their state senators and urge them to reconsider these attacks on our health care.”

Willingham said the biggest disappointment with the Senate budget is that it fails to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap for 500,000 North Carolinians.

"Every year we send billions of tax dollars to Washington D.C., that never comes back to us," Willingham said. "If it came back through Medicaid expansion, we would have more jobs and more health care for our citizens."

Thirty-seven other states have expanded Medicaid to close the coverage gap. Most recently, Virginia expanded Medicaid as part of a state budget compromise agreed to by a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature.

"If Virginia can expand health care coverage, lower costs for all of us and grow health care jobs — why can’t North Carolina?" Willingham asked.

A vigil Wednesday in Rocky Mount and across the state honored North Carolinians who have died in the Medicaid coverage gap.

The Health Care Can’t Wait vigil was held at the OIC on N. Grace Street in a stand of solidarity with groups in more than 20 other municipalities.

Faith leaders, local elected officials, health care providers and people directly impacted by the Medicaid coverage gap spoke at the vigil.

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