By Peg O’Connell, Chair, Care4Carolina
My phone sent me a wonderful reminder this week. You know, when a random photo from a past event pops up. The event was the first public meeting held by Care4Carolina. The meeting was hosted by Campbell University on October 28, 2016—six years ago this week.
For those of you who know the history of the Care4Carolina coalition, you know that the group started outreach to potential partners in 2014. Creating a broad-based coalition of diverse stakeholders, including the big voluntary health and provider organizations. If North Carolina was going to close the coverage gap, our coalition had to have partners from every corner and every facet of the state. We spent the first two years of the coalition bringing people to the table and allowing the opportunity for these diverse groups to get to know and trust each other. Today, Care4Carolina is a 157-organization member coalition — all of whom are dedicated to finding a North Carolina solution for closing the coverage gap.
The October 2016 meeting was really the beginning of the coalition’s push to inform the broader public about all the benefits that could come to the state if we were to close the gap through some sort of Medicaid expansion. We had an all-star panel of some of the state’s best researchers on the topic: Dr. Ronnie Bell from East Carolina University spoke on the public health benefits of getting those in the gap access to insurance; Professor Mark Hall from Wake Forest School of Law talked about the experience other states had with Medicaid Expansion and how many military veterans were uninsured in our state and Jason Gray from the Rural Center detailed the positive impact that closing the coverage gap would have on our rural hospitals and the economies of our rural communities.
In many ways that panel established the framework for all of Care4Carolina’s advocacy efforts to close the health insurance coverage gap for the 600,000 North Carolinians who don’t qualify for Medicaid and make too little to get a subsidy on the health insurance market place.
The photo on my phone was a nice reminder about how far we have come. When Care4Carolina was started many people were afraid to even discuss the topic, now we have had both chambers of our legislature pass bills to expand Medicaid. We are not there yet, both houses must agree on an actual plan and pass a law, but we have come a long way and I think we can see success on the horizon. Next time I write, I hope that the picture that pops up on my phone is the final vote of the North Carolina General Assembly enacting a North Carolina solution to close the Medicaid coverage gap, once and for all.
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