By Peg O’Connell, Chair, Care4Carolina
Leaders lead from the front. That doesn’t mean that they have to be the center of attention or constantly in the spotlight, but when there is difficult work to be done, they step to the front.
Leaders also have courage—courage to state their beliefs and change their minds when it is the right thing to do. North Carolinians witnessed both of these qualities when North Carolina Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger and several of his colleagues stepped to the microphone at a recent news conference to introduce legislation that closes the health insurance coverage gap by expanding Medicaid.
After nearly a decade of opposing Medicaid expansion, Senator Berger outlined his reasons for with grace and humor, even saying, “that if there is a person in this state who spoke against expanding Medicaid more than I have, I’d like to meet that person.” He made the economic case for expansion and the case for helping small hospitals survive. He also talked about the $1.7 billion “signing bonus” that will come to the state from the federal government if we expand our Medicaid program to include those caught in the coverage gap. But in the end, he and his colleagues all mentioned the “hand up” that having health insurance will give to the working poor in our state. The people who will be able to go to work healthier and live more productive lives free of the worry of a illness destroying their health and livelihood.
The bill that is the current vehicle for a good Medicaid expansion plan (HB 149) is also a vehicle for a variety of other major health policy changes, including the SAVE Act, Certificate of Need changes, telehealth expansion and elimination of surprise billing. Care4Carolina does not take, nor will we take, a position on any of those other important issues. Many of our C4C stakeholders and partners have differing views on these other provisions, but we are all united in our support of expanding Medicaid for the 600,000 North Carolinians caught in the coverage gap.
So, now is the time to get this done. On behalf of Care4Carolina, our 146 organizational members and all the folks in the coverage gap who will, finally, have access to affordable health insurance, I say, “Thank you,” to Senator Berger and all his Senate colleagues for your leadership, your courage and your care for North Carolina. We are confident the House leadership will look at this bill to do what needs to be done.