By John Chaffee, Business Broker and Care4Carolina Business Advisory Council Member
I spent my entire career in economic development in eastern North Carolina. I partnered with state and local leaders to attract industry and assist entrepreneurs to create jobs. While I did, and still do, promote a skilled workforce, I can’t guarantee a healthy workforce, which also has an impact on employers. So many North Carolinians live with diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses, but can’t access healthcare providers to manage these conditions. When workers are sick, they can’t be as productive, which imposes financial issues for their employers and taxpayers. That is why I believe we should promote a healthy workforce and maintain North Carolina’s reputation as business-friendly state by closing the health insurance coverage gap by expanding Medicaid to create more jobs and new business activity.
States that have expanded Medicaid saw significant increases in healthcare sector jobs and total employment. North Carolina can expect that tens of thousands of healthcare jobs will be created once we commit to closing the coverage gap! The growth we have seen in the greater Greenville area correlates to the investments in Greenville becoming a major medical center. Having access to exceptional health care is one of the top factors associated with livability— this was particularly true for the types of industries/companies recruited to Greenville area. This ripple effect also created jobs in retail, real estate, construction, hospitality, and other services.
Increasing access to health insurance, and therefore access to better health care, has other significant economic benefits. Based upon the experiences of other states (namely Ohio and Michigan), Medicaid expansion has encouraged unemployed workers to seek employment. Moreover, healthier employees have lower rates of absenteeism— because acute and/or chronic illnesses of employees are treated on a regular basis. According to some corporate studies, unhealthy workers had absenteeism rates 9x that of healthy workers. Additionally, healthy workers tend to be happier and more productive employees, roughly a 12% gain in productivity according to a recent study by economists at the University of Warwick.
Beyond the positive health aspects to beneficiaries and employers are the broader economic benefits. Economists estimate approximately $4.7 billion of increased personal income for North Carolinians once we close the coverage gap. In addition to the new purchasing power, this will be money spent in our communities. North Carolina counties and states will benefit from increased income, property, and sales taxes, too!
Bottom line, closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid is good for North Carolina—our businesses, our people, and our economic prosperity! Please join me in advocating for a North Carolina-based solution.