Politics & Government

Groups renew push to expand Medicaid in North Carolina

A coalition of groups launched an effort Wednesday that is designed to put a face on their case to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

And the face at a morning news conference was that of a Charlotte woman who said she would be one of the 500,000 people who would benefit from expansion.

Republican legislative leaders have declined to expand the federal health care program for the poor and uninsured. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pick up the costs for three years and most of the cost after that.

“We’re here to send a clear message that their dismissive attitude is out of synch with North Carolinians,” said Felicia Williams, associate campaign director for MomsRising.org.

Williams spoke for the coalition of progressive groups that includes Planned Parenthood, the state AFL-CIO, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

She and others were surrounded by posters citing figures from a George Washington University study paid for by the Cone Health Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The study found that North Carolina lost $2.7 billion in federal funding in 2014 and stands to lose $3.3 billion this year.

The study said expansion would create 43,000 jobs by 2020 and add over $1 billion in state and local tax revenue. And it said Mecklenburg County’s total economy by 2020 would be almost $1 billion less than it would be if Medicaid was expanded.

Putting a face on their case was Dana Wilson, a 41-year-old Charlottean who has multiple sclerosis. She said she’s a part-time worker making $400 a month, so she failed to qualify for subsidies under the ACA but would benefit from Medicaid expansion. She said her father pays to cover her health insurance now.

“The longer (legislators) wait, the deeper people like me fall into debt,” she said.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who delivers his State of the State address tonight, has suggested he may be open to expansion. But GOP lawmakers have opposed it, saying they’re not sure the state can afford it after the federal payments slow.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said it’s time for legislators to “put down their talking points (and) stop playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”

“I dare them to sit in a room with (Wilson) and 10 others like her and say we’re not going to expand Medicaid.”

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