My Turn, Tarik Woods: State badly needs Medicaid expansion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

By Tarik Woods

In our state alone an estimated 53,000 veterans and their families live without health insurance because of inaccessibility.

North Carolina has almost 1 million people living without health insurance and, at 10.7% uninsured, we have the 10th-highest uninsured rate in the nation. Our communities, rural hospitals and state are crying out for much needed assistance from our state legislature; yet there is no help to be found. Why is it that the majority of our General Assembly cowers at the mention of healthcare expansion? Let’s discuss.

Out of the million people around our state that cannot afford healthcare many are working and just don’t make enough to purchase a healthcare plan.

North Carolina has felt the full force of this poor quality of life. We’ve continued to see an increase in opioid-related deaths. Our states infant mortality rate is almost 22% higher than the national average. Rural hospitals across our state are struggling to stay active and continue serving communities.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, North Carolina has seen more than half a million people receive access to health insurance. An increase in healthcare accessibility would show a drastic increase in well-paying, high-quality jobs, bringing along with them an extra $4 billion into our economy.

Most importantly, saving more than one thousand lives per year. So, why are we among the small and shrinking number of states not increasing this access? It’s not just those who are impoverished or those with previous existing conditions who are uninsured.

About 18% of those without insurance are currently in school, 29% are stay at home guardians or caretakers and 10% are retired.

We have to wonder why our state has been falling behind in utilizing our tax dollars in efficient ways that will benefit entire communities. Even though the national economy is booming, North Carolina is losing out on an extreme portion of that bull market by not taking advantage of health sector occupations.

The vast majority of our state’s job growth has occurred in only three urban counties — Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg — and in more than 80 of 100 counties there are more who are jobless than there are job openings.

I’m intensely positive that most North Carolinians first thought reading this opinion article would be that expanding health insurance would be too costly. Well, prepare to have your entire world shaken. It’s not. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling the truth. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Federal Government covers 90% of the cost of healthcare expansion. The other 10% is covered by our state’s hospitals, meaning zero dollars would be coming from our state tax dollars.

The best-case scenario is that our legislators are unaware of the dire need their constituents have for access to working healthcare. Partisan games are a part of politics and for most issues North Carolinians turn a blind eye to the antics of Raleigh.

But the majority party’s games in our legislature is literally killing hundreds annually around our state.

Woods is a Salisbury High School alumnus and economics and philosophy major at UNC Chapel Hill.