Raleigh – Republican policies have reversed many health care gains for rural North Carolinians, raised premiums, and threatened key components of the rural health care system, including rural hospitals, according to a new report from Protect Our Care and Rural Forward, a group dedicated to bridging the urban-rural divide chaired by former NC Rep. Bob Etheridge.
The biggest driver of this divide is Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid, which would cover 626,000 North Carolinians. Rural communities in states that have not expanded Medicaid have a significantly higher uninsured rate (15 percent) than urban communities (11 percent), while rural communities in states that have expanded Medicaid have a lower uninsured rate (9 percent) than urban communities. Medicaid covers nearly 24 percent of rural Americans, 45 percent of rural children, 15 percent of rural seniors, and pays for 51 percent of rural births.
Losing rural hospitals also hurts employment opportunities. As Mark Holmes, the director of the Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina, pointed out, “Losing an employer of 150 people with good jobs is like losing a manufacturing plant…Hospitals are usually the largest, or the second-largest, employer in a community.”
Since 2013, at least six rural hospitals have closed or gone bankrupt, all but one of which is represented by Republicans:
- Morehead Memorial Hospital (HD65, Rep. Jones; SD26, Senate Leader Berger)
- Davie Medical Center – Mocksville (HD79, Rep. Howard; SD34, Sen. Barrett)
- Yadkin Valley Community Hospital (HD73, Rep. Zachary; SD31, Sen. Krawiec)
- Vidant Pungo Hospital (HD6, Rep. Boswell; SD1, Sen. Cook)
- Blowing Rock Hospital (HD93, Jonathan Jordan; SD45, Sen. Ballard)
- Our Community Hospital (HD27, Rep. Wray; SD4, Sen. Fitch, Jr.)
The new report comes after North Carolina House Republicans last week refused to expand Medicaid, voting to block an amendment from Rep. Bobbie Richardson. The Senate went a step further and refused to even study the effects of expanding Medicaid.Meanwhile, the Trump administration and Washington Republicans continue to push a war on Medicaid that will further devastate rural care and a new repeal plan that would have severe effects on health insurance coverage, access to care, and many Americans’ health and financial security.
“Refusing to expand Medicaid hurts nearly every facet of life in our rural areas, leaving them further behind and making them less healthy with fewer economic opportunities,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “Democrats are committed to fighting for our rural areas, and that starts with expanding Medicaid and bringing new health and economic opportunities to rural North Carolina.”