FOR YOUR CALENDAR: Town Hall-type discussion on expanded Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina

FOR YOUR CALENDAR: Town Hall-type discussion on expanded Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina
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By David Rogers. March 18, 2019. BOONE, NC — A potential expansion of Medicaid coverage in North Carolina has gotten the attention of High Country interest groups as well as politicians recently, and the public is invited to get better informed.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is hosting a “Town Hall” type meeting, “…to explore increasing access to health insurance coverage in North Carolina and the impact of expanding Medicaid.” The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, 2019, from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, the auditorium at Watauga Medical Center.

David Jackson, the President of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce will serve as moderator for a discussion featuring Erica Palmer Smith from Care4Carolina, an organization “…that seeks to strengthen the economic and social well-being of our state by increasing access to affordable, quality healthcare for all North Carolinians.”

Smith will highlight who is currently eligible for Medicaid, who might be served by Medicaid expansion, and the prospective economic impact of such an expansion. She will also discuss current legislation that seeks to close the coverage gap.

According to the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA), more than 500,000 state residents who earn low incomes could gain health insurance coverage if the North Carolina General Assembly expands Medicaid eligibility.

North Carolina State Senator Deanna Ballard (Republican-District 45) and North Carolina Representative Ray Russell (Democrat-District 93) will also be on hand to comment.

According to the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA), more than 500,000 state residents who earn low incomes could gain health insurance coverage if the North Carolina General Assembly expands Medicaid eligibility. “This would allow people all across the state to access preventative care screenings, check-ups, fill prescription medications, and get the treatment and care they need to be healthy and productive citizens.”

In an information sheet received by Blowing Rock News on Monday, NCHA maintains that in states that have expanded Medicaid, private insurance premium rates are, on average, seven percent lower (than states without expanded Medicaid). The reason, the organization explains, is that when more people are insured, healthcare is more affordable.

NCHA adds the following footnoted facts:

  • 208,000 North Carolina farmers, fishermen, clergy, veterans and others fall into the health insurance coverage “gap”
  • 60% of North Carolinians in the coverage gap are part of a working family
  • There are currently 30,000 uninsured veterans in North Carolina
  • North Carolina experiences approximately $225.8 billion in productivity losses to businesses each year due to employee health problems

An obvious proponent of expanding Medicaid coverage in North Carolina, NCHA suggests that by expanding Medicaid coverage, the state could:

  • Connect uninsured North Carolinians with an affordable health insurance option
  • Promote appropriate utilization of healthcare services
  • Reduce inefficient healthcare spending
  • Promote personal responsibility with wellness incentive for preventive care and screenings

Point-Counterpoint should lead to lively discussion

ARHS’ Town Hall-type meeting should evolve as an informative forum for hearing both sides of what has become a highly partisan issue. Democrats tend to favor Medicaid expansion while Republicans are generally opposing it.

208,000 North Carolina farmers, fishermen, clergy, veterans and others fall into the health insurance coverage gap.

If both sides are well-represented, the debate could be not only interesting, but lively. In 2013, the Galen Institute’s Grace-Marie Turner and Avik Roy penned an essay, “Why States Should Not Expand Medicaid.” Without getting into the details of each reason, the authors asserted 12 reasons NOT to expand Medicaid:

  • Medicaid harms the poor
  • Medicaid spending will explode
  • Medicaid’s access problems will get worse as more doctors drop out
  • States will be exposed to higher Medicaid costs when Washington recalculates its matching payments
  • Medicaid expansion will worsen the cycle of dependence and harm the economy
  • Claims about job creation are exaggerated
  • Medicaid crowds out private coverage
  • Medicaid raises premiums for those with private insurance
  • Expanding Medicaid will expose states to increased risks of fraud and waste
  • By rejecting Medicaid expansion, states encourage others to do the same, fueling the spending cycle
  • States should demand more control and flexibility to expand coverage their own way

Remember, these objections to expanding Medicaid were offered in 2013 as the Affordable Care Act was just being rolled out. An interesting part of Thursday evening’s discussion may well be how those objections have been handled or overcome by adherents of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.

In an August 27, 2018 essay found on The Commonwealth Fund website, authors Donald Moulds, Susan L. Hayes, Sara R. Collins, and Rachel Nuzum remind readers that, “More than 50 years ago, Medicaid was created as a jointly funded partnership between the federal government, which establishes parameters, and the states that administer it.”

They add, “While there was a lag between passage of the statute and adoption of the program by all states, the path to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act for individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level has been far more circuitous.”

SAMPLE RECOMMENDED READING before going to Thursday evening’s important Town Hall meeting at the Watauga Medical Center auditorium:

  • https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2018/states-look-expand-medicaid
  • https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-obamacare-medicaid-ballot-20180824-story.html
  • https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-republicans-war-on-medicaid
  • https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/12/04/opposing-medicaid-expansion
  • https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2018/11/20/medicaid-expansion-tennessee-bill-lee/1926701002/

EDITOR’S NOTE: While we include this story because we believe it has reader interest, we add that Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is a Cornerstone Marketing Partner of Blowing Rock News

About The Author

As Editor and Publisher of Blowing Rock News, David Rogers has chosen a second professional career instead of retirement. For more than 35 years, he served in the financial services industry, principally in institutional equity research. He grew up in the oilfields north of Bakersfield, California and was a high school English major and honors student. From an economically disadvantaged family background, he worked his way through college (on grounds crew and in dining hall, as well as advertising sales for college newspapers), attending Johnston College at the University of Redlands, Claremont McKenna College, and California State University, Bakersfield. Other jobs to pay for college included a Teamsters Union job in South Central Los Angeles, a roustabout in the central California oilfields, and moving sprinkler pipe and hoeing weeds in the cotton fields west of Bakersfield. Rogers' financial services industry career took him from Bakersfield to La Jolla and San Diego, then to Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Newport Beach and Charlotte before arriving in the High Country in 2000 to take a volunteer position coaching the rugby team at Appalachian State University and write independent stock market research. He spent three years as a senior financial writer for a global financial PR firm with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Tel Aviv, and Frankfort (Germany). Rogers is the author of "The 90% Solution: Higher Returns, Less Risk" (2006, John Wiley & Co., New York). He is married to wife Kim (Jenkins Realtors), and shares in the joy provided by her three grown children and five grandchildren.

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