By: Hailey Gutzmer, Communications Coordinator, Care4Carolina
Classes returned to session at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health last week. This semester looks very different with most classes taking place over Zoom from the comfort of my apartment.
It has certainly been an interesting time to be a Master of Public Health student, no longer just learning about pandemics but actually experiencing one for yourself. In public health, we continuously discuss not only how we can address population health issues, but also how we can look upstream and prevent threats from ever causing harm. Increasing access to care and health insurance coverage is an essential prevention strategy, yet North Carolina has still failed to close its health insurance coverage gap.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation, there were approximately 500,000 North Carolinians in the coverage gap prior to the pandemic. Sadly, that number continues to grow as more people lose their incomes and jobs due to COVID with estimates up to 750,000 now in the coverage gap.
It’s no secret that health care in the United States is expensive, especially if you don’t have health insurance. Those without insurance are more likely to put-off necessary health care and lack access to life-saving prevention services, such as screenings. During a pandemic, prompt testing and diagnosis is essential to reducing the spread of the virus.
Fear of high medical costs for COVID testing and treatment is keeping the uninsured from getting the care they need. These cost barriers cause more people to remain in their communities unknowingly spreading the virus for longer periods of time before diagnosis. In many cases, people without insurance delay seeking medical help until their condition has significantly progressed. Again, this puts North Carolinians in a very dangerous position during a pandemic where the time of treatment can determine chances of survival.
Closing the coverage gap is a simple step that North Carolina can take to help fight the spread of COVID in the state.
Fighting a pandemic requires everyone to do their part. Having people that cannot access testing and treatment puts everyone at risk. Extending coverage to the hundreds of thousands of people in the coverage gap is necessary to ensure the health of all North Carolinians.