North Carolina finally will expand Medicaid, the government-run health care coverage for low-income people, on Dec. 1, nine years after the Affordable Care Act was implemented.
As of Dec. 1, 600,000 uninsured North Carolinians will become eligible for lifesaving health care.
While the move is to be applauded, we should remember that the state “reformed” (privatized) Medicaid for those on the rolls already and that lawmakers resisted taking this federal money for nearly a decade while thousands of poor and low-wealth people died from lack of care — at the rate of one or two every day.
What’s worse is that since the end of COVID provisions, some 69,000 North Carolinians have been thrown off the rolls already, and the purge continues, even though most of those found ineligible had only problems with their paperwork, not their eligibility. In the end, according to NC Health News, up to 300,000 could be thrown off the rolls.
North Carolina ranks 46th of 51 (that includes Washington, D.C.) in rates of people who have coverage, with 30.9% of people with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level uninsured. In Buncombe, the uninsured rate is slightly higher, at 33.3%, 77th out of the 100 counties, and Henderson ranks 95th, with 38.5% uninsured. While those rates will go down, they will not disappear, and with poverty being the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, we should seek to cover people in poverty first — not as an afterthought.
We have a patchwork of health care systems in this country, and navigating our private, for-profit system, our single-payer (Medicare and Medicaid) and government-run (the VA) can be a nightmare, especially for someone who’s poor, working two jobs and still unable to get out of poverty — and more than 70% of those who will become eligible for care are working.
The Poor People’s Campaign has called for the expansion of Medicaid in every state, for protecting Medicare from privatization and its expansion to cover everyone. That would be the best system; it just wouldn’t line the pockets of the wealthiest.
It is time to give Americans — all Americans — the health care they need and deserve.
— Leslie Boyd