The 2020 election is picking up steam in Jackson County; mail-in voting has begun, and the on-site early voting period starts Feb. 13.
As voters begin wading through the ocean of candidates vying for seats on the state level, we would urge they look at their stance on Medicaid expansion.
The battle over Medicaid expansion in North Carolina has led to a budget impasse that will face the General Assembly when they return to session in April.
Medicaid expansion may not be the solution to all the health challenges facing the state, but it would, no pun intended, cure a host of ills.
It would also put North Carolina back on track with most of the rest of the country. Kansas recently became the 37th state to endorse Medicaid expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, 90 percent of the cost would be shouldered by the federal government. According to Gov. Roy Cooper, the remaining 10 percent would be covered by insurance plans and hosptials.
Expansion would help close the coverage gap in North Carolina for those ineligible for Medicaid by the previous rules but don’t earn enough to qualify for ACA’s subsidies and credits designed to help middle-class Americans obtain health insurance.
The main arguments critics make regarding Medicaid expansion is that the federal government might someday not cover its share. There’s always that risk, we suppose, but the federal government not ponying up never seems to be an argument regarding other spending, like road projects or going to war.
At any rate, Medicaid expansion wouldn’t mean more taxes, since North Carolinians are paying those taxes anyway but not getting the return of the benefits of expansion.
For Jackson County, those benefits would include more citizens covered, more jobs and a boost to tax coffers.
But more, it would be a huge boost to the bottom line of the county’s health and those on the front lines of dealing with the opioid and mental health crises.
Steve Heatherly, who serves as president and CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital, said “Medicaid expansion would aid in the coverage issue for at-risk populations we serve and are disproportionate to rural areas.
“Substance abuse in general is at epidemic proportions, and that’s directly linked to the behavioral health crisis; one begets the other. We’re seeing it every day in both ER departments, folks who do not have enough access to behavioral health professionals, not enough of a connection with primary care … you get a subset of patients who never get the treatment they need, they don’t get it in a proactive manner, and those patients end up in crisis. Folks with no resources for preventative medicine show up really, really sick.”
Again, Medicaid expansion won’t solve all the problems we face in health care today, but it can provide more people with coverage and provide the all-important touchstone between a person and the health care system, a touchstone that can fend off a person spinning into crisis. It’s the old “ounce of prevention, pound of cure’’ argument.
So, when heading off to the polls, be sure to know where your candidate stands on Medicaid expansion. If they’re against it, find out why.
And find out what their own plans are to deal with lack of insurance coverage and how to get basic care to people.