Letter: State’s health care system doesn’t meet needs of its people

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 4, 2020

At the end of 2019, North Carolina had the 9th highest uninsured rate in the nation. We are only one of 12 states that has not allowed Medicaid expansion. It is estimated that before the COVID-19 pandemic approximately 16% of NC adults under the age of 65 were uninsured. Through May that number is now 20% and at least 238,000 North Carolinians became uninsured this past spring.  

North Carolina has the nation’s 3rd highest total of excessive deaths from failure to expand Medicaid. Before COVID-19, experts estimated that, if NC closed the coverage gap, more than 400,000 North Carolinians would gain health insurance. Since the pandemic started, that number has increased to over 600,000. Medicaid expansion would cover many if not all of these people. The federal government would pay 90% of the total cost of Medicaid expansion and the state would pay the remaining 10%.

Our health care system does not meet the needs of millions of Americans. Care is unaffordable, inaccessible and unequal. This disproportionately affects the employed and unemployed poor, marginalized people and people of color. There is no shame in being poor, but there is shame in being treated poorly. It is a basic human right for everyone to have health care and to live in a healthy environment.

In July, the North Carolina Council of Churches sent a powerful letter signed by a diverse group of faith leaders to Gov. Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. The letter called for state action on Medicaid expansion, public school funding, broadband access and criminal justice reform that addresses issues of racial equity.

A recent poll sponsored by Care4Carolina, an advocacy group pushing for the General assembly to pass Medicaid expansion, found increasing support across party lines for the expansion of Medicaid.  In 2016, 2.1 million registered voters in NC did not vote. It is important in this election to support those candidates that believe all people should have health coverage.

— Carol Pomeroy