Nonpartisan foundation reports and poll after poll have shown both the sanity in expanding Medicaid and the public’s support for it. Such a policy would potentially benefit half a million North Carolinians of all ages with no access to adequate health care. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion would bring in billions of federal dollars to North Carolina for hospitals and doctors to treat insured patients. The cost to the state would never be more than 10 percent of the expense, a bargain by any reckoning.
To run the program after expansion, one state senator said there would be an additional 30,000 jobs, another financial boom for the state.
Yet Republican leaders in the General Assembly, and the weak administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, have steadfastly refused to expand Medicaid. Their excuse, not that it’s much of one, is that the federal government couldn’t be trusted to pick up the expense and that the cost would likely skyrocket.
Let’s translate that into reality speech: The ACA is a singular triumph for a Democratic president we despise and we don’t intend to do anything that makes him look good, even if it means denying health care to our own people.
Consider that Mark Hall, professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, assessed what expanding Medicaid would mean and concluded that the expense to the state would essentially be a wash, given the economic benefit of expansion to the state and the savings in health care costs. Hall, respected in his field, has no partisan ax to grind.
The response to that finding by state Senate President pro tem Phil Berger? A spokesperson said Berger “has a well-known and established position against Medicaid expansion. If for some reason his position ever changes, we will be sure to announce it.” The sarcasm isn’t lost on anyone, nor is the cruelty. And Berger is a graduate of the Wake Forest law school.
And consider this: NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, adds to the call for expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina with a report based on a study out of Emory University. The study shows clearly that there are tremendous health care benefits for adults – and children – in expanding Medicaid.
The Emory study showed that those in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid don’t get checkups, vaccinations or dental care. That’s obviously bad for them.
It’s also bad for their children. Studies show that in families where adults don’t have insurance, children are less likely to have it. The report also notes that access to health care through insurance also can have an impact on things like infant mortality; mothers with coverage can get the kind of prenatal care they and their babies need.
North Carolina should have expanded Medicaid long ago, and it should do so now. If anything, expansion will help the Republicans who have so opposed it by making it appear they have put the people first.