By Susan Murphy, GBW Strategies
For the past few months, I’ve been working with GBW Strategies as the story bank project manager for the Care4Carolina coalition. My primary responsibility has been talking to people in the community who have found themselves or a family member in the health insurance coverage gap. The first thing I needed to do was familiarize myself with Medicaid and who does – and doesn’t – qualify to receive it.
I learned that the coverage gap refers to people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for a subsidy on the health insurance marketplace. For example, so many North Carolinians clock in to jobs day after day, but they don’t receive health insurance from their employers.
Growing up in NC, I never worried about medical insurance, because our family received coverage through my dad’s company. Then I spent several years in the UK. Although many employers there now offer private health insurance, everyone is eligible to receive medical care. And it’s something they take great pride in.
The next thing I wanted to understand was why our legislators were against expanding Medicaid in NC – like 38 other states had done. It turns out it mostly comes down to a misperception about money. That’s despite the fact that there is so much data showing that refusing to take federal funds for Medicaid expansion represents a false economy. Furthermore, in NC, 76% of adults in the coverage gap are working.
But it’s even worse than that.
I spoke to laborers and contractors who work hard every day – but still find themselves in the gap. People who can’t afford to go to the doctor – even though they know they need to. Who can’t get covered until a serious illness is diagnosed. And then it could be too late. And guess what? By then, it has cost the state far more than it would have if they’d been diagnosed at the outset.
I heard about working moms who gained Medicaid coverage when they became pregnant – then lost it when they miscarried. And this cost them their life.
I learned of veterans who served our country – heroes who we all assume have VA coverage when they leave the service. They may be suffering from PTSD and other physical ailments. But that doesn’t mean they qualify to get the treatment they need. And this could be fatal.
I met people who need to change jobs to further their career – even though they will lose their insurance. And they’re just praying they won’t need it. That their childhood cancer won’t return. That they won’t have some sort of accident and won’t be able to get treatment.
I spoke to a NC resident who is studying to become a healthcare worker – because of their experience of living briefly without insurance. They’re hoping the delay in seeking cancer treatment won’t have deadly consequences.
There are so many examples like this that it almost makes my head explode. It’s embarrassing and it’s heartbreaking. It doesn’t make fiscal sense – and it doesn’t make moral sense. We can – and should – do better.