Hear them in their own words
By Peg O’Connell
There are often differences of opinion between the eastern and western parts of our state. We have seen it play out in the political dynasties that have ruled the state over the years [Anyone remember the Branch head boys or the Shelby dynasty?] and in the attempts by our policymakers to deploy the state’s limited resources—sometimes successfully, and sometimes, not so much. And of course there is the issue of barbeque!
So, I am glad to report that there is one issue upon which business, community and local government leaders at both ends of the state can agree, it is time to close the coverage gap. We need to find a solution to provide an affordable option for the uninsured to get health insurance.
Care4Carolina recently co-hosted two large regional (virtual) forums aimed at seeking community input on how the coverage gap and the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, is impacting communities, businesses and local governments across the state. As you might have guessed, it is tough out there, regardless if you are in Manteo or Murphy—actually our speakers were from Carteret to Graham Counties, but you get the idea.
We know that people are suffering, especially those who are uninsured and fall ill from COVID or some other illness, but what we heard most frequently was about how COVID has caused a 50-car pile-up in the revenues that were expected by town and county governments.
When people stop spending, governments lose tax revenues, which means that they can no longer fill in the gaps for those in needs. Also, when people stop spending, local business suffers and has to lay people off, which means they lose their insurance and … you know the rest. And the burden on the small and rural hospital and health care provider just keeps getting heavier and heavier.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. These two forums featured some excellent speakers who have solutions. One was Anna James from Sentara in the Elizabeth City area. Anna was in the governor’s office in Virginia when that state expanded Medicaid. Her story and the data she presented about the economic and health benefits for Virginia is inspiring. With her permission, you can see a clip of her presentation here.
From the west, McDowell County to be exact, our friend Steve Bush made both the business and a very personal case for closing the gap. Steve is the head of the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce. He is passionate in his message that business in our rural counties will struggle for years if we don’t find a solution for providing health insurance for our workers—especially those in small businesses that simply can’t afford group health insurance. Even though Steve is a businessman, he makes it clear that at the end of the day, this issue is about hard-working people who are trying to provide for their families.
Care4Carolina will be hosting several more of these forums over the coming month. We’d love to have you join us for one. Visit our website Care4Carolina.com and sign up for the list serve.