By: Peg O’Connell
I start this week’s blog with apologies to the people of Missouri and Rogers and Hammerstein but I gotta say it: Way to go MO and “You’re doin’ fine Oklahoma, Oklahoma, OK!”
This is a corny but heartfelt shout out to the voters of both those conservative leaning states for going around their hidebound legislatures and voting directly to adopt a solution for closing the coverage gap. They put themselves at risk to go out and vote in the middle of a pandemic in order to do the right thing for their states and all the people in them. BRAVO!
Let’s start with what happened in Missouri last week. On Tuesday, August 4th, despite strong opposition from their governor and the legislature, Missouri joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in expanding its Medicaid program.
Voters in Missouri approved creating a state constitutional amendment that will open Medicaid eligibility to include healthy adults starting on July 1, 2021. Voters endorsed a coverage gap solution by a vote of 53.25% to 46.75%. That is a very comfortable margin and advocates in the state should be very proud of their work.
With its vote, Missouri joined five other mostly conservative states that have passed Medicaid expansion via ballot initiatives, most recently Oklahoma, which voted in the measure on June 30. Way to go Oklahoma! That leaves just 12—a dirty dozen.
Soooo, the question is obvious, “why can’t we do something like this in North Carolina?”
The polls clearly indicate that NC voters want a solution to close the gap. The need for a plan has become even more desperate since COVID hit our state. If our legislature won’t act then why can’t we simply put something on the ballot? Unfortunately for this type of issue, North Carolina does not have an initiative or referendum process. Our only recourse, when our legislature refuses to act in line with what the voters want, is to elect different people to the legislature.
Closing the coverage gap is not a partisan issue. Missouri and Oklahoma, for example, have Republican governors and legislatures, and voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election but they voted for a solution. North Carolina has had two bi-partisan bills introduced that would create a North Carolina specific solution for closing the coverage gap.
We know that smart people of good will can figure this out, but it is our job as voters to find those people—regardless of party. Over the next two months, Care4Carolina will hold a series of virtual community forums in six different regions of the state. I invite you to sign-up for these forums and become informed. Then, when you are talking to candidates in your community, ask them where they stand on enacting a solution for closing the coverage gap. If this issue is as important to you as it is to me, then make your election choice accordingly.
North Carolina voters may not have the same mechanisms available to them as our friends in Missouri and Oklahoma, but we still have the power of our votes. Let’s use it!