Raleigh – On Wednesday, a group of House Democrats held a press conference to discuss HB 1040, Healthcare for Working North Carolinians. It’s estimated that the bill, which would expand Medicaid in North Carolina, would provide insurance for 500,000 people in the state currently without it. Studies also show that the legislation would create more than 37,000 new jobs.
Representatives James Gailliard (D-25), Sydney Batch (D-37), Scott Brewer (D-66) and Christy Clark (D-98) discussed the renewed effort, noting that all 55 House Democrats are co-sponsoring the legislation.
What they’re saying:
- “We can no longer sit here and allow $4 billion of your tax dollars to sit in Washington,” said Rep. Sydney Batch, a Holly Springs Democrat, on Wednesday. “We need to bring that money back to our state.”
- In addition to the economic argument, Batch also pointed to the more than 700,000 North Carolinians who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus. She said more than 300,000 of those newly jobless North Carolinians likely lost their employer-sponsored health insurance, citing a study from the Economic Policy Institute.
- Rep. James Gailliard, a Democrat from Rocky Mount, noted that grocery store workers typically don’t get health care benefits. But because they’re now on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, they’re at greater risk of getting sick and spreading the disease.
- A group of Democrats in the state House on Wednesday rolled out a bill that would repeal a law preventing North Carolina from expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
- In a video conference, state Representative Christy Clark of Mecklenburg County said the move would help low-income workers, many of whom have been deemed essential and are still working during the pandemic.
- “Not just during these times but every day, people deserve the right to quality, affordable health care at a cost that will not break their bank or prevent them from seeking care at all,” she said. “This is even more critical now as more than 800,000 workers in this state have lost their jobs, and for many of them, their health care with it.”
- The North Carolina Justice Center reported last January that the state’s 10.7% uninsured rate — the 10th highest in the nation at the time — made North Carolina less competitive in vying for future employers.
- During the press call Wednesday, the state lawmakers reiterated the importance of expanding Medicaid in an effort to improve the quality of life for North Carolinians who are particularly vulnerable even when the country isn’t facing a public health crisis.
- Representative James Gailliard added that the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing lawmakers to face this reality: “We have a responsibility to make sure everyone around us has proper access to health care because by keeping one person healthy, we’re really keeping everybody healthy.”
- House Bill 1040 would expand Medicaid in North Carolina.The bill has more than 40 Democratic co-sponsors, and Cooper’s secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said during a Tuesday briefing that expansion is “the one thing our state could do right now” to really help North Carolina families and rural hospitals.
- The bill provides benefits to individuals in the Medicaid coverage gap, which is present in states that did not go forward with Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
- North Carolina is one of 14 states that haven’t adopted Medicaid expansion; HB 1040 calls for Medicaid to be expanded in a fashion similar to what 37 states have already done.
- “As of right now, an estimated 311,000 North Carolinians have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance due to the direct impact of COVID-10,” Rep. Sydney Batch said. “Expanding Medicaid would help 160,000 of them access the needed health care, in addition to 500,000 that wouldn’t have qualified prior to COVID-19.”
- On the day when North Carolina surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 cases, a group of House Democrats gathered by teleconference to make the case for Medicaid expansion.
- Mecklenburg County Rep. Christy Clark, a cancer survivor, believes the latest bill could provide health coverage to as many as 500,000 North Carolians who are working but can’t cover the cost of insurance.
- “Those are the very people who are keeping the state running during this unprecedented pandemic,” explained Clark. “People deserve quality healthcare at a cost that will not break their bank or prevent them from seeking care at all.”