by Peg O’Connell, Chair, Care4Carolina
Groundhog’s Day was a big deal when I was a kid growing up in southeastern Ohio. The winters in Ohio are long, cold and grey and we would look for any reason to hope that somehow spring would, magically, come early. I never wanted him to see his shadow!
More recently, the term “Groundhog’s Day,” has come to mean being stuck in a time warp, doing the same this over and over again. Like Yogi Berra’s “déjà vu all over again.” Regarding closing North Carolina’s health insurance coverage gap, sometimes I feel like we are stuck in the movie “Groundhog’s Day.”
With hundreds of thousand North Carolinians in the coverage gap, Care4Carolina formed in 2015 to coordinate efforts to work with NC General Assembly to find a solution. Each year we would begin the legislative session with hope in our hearts that “this year” would be the year that our policymakers would finally reach a consensus on creating a solution to cover the nearly 600,000 people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to be eligible for a subsidy on the Healthcare Marketplace. And each year we would be disappointed. The ending to the movie always seemed to be the same.
We got close a couple of times—legislation was introduced and one of them almost made it to the House floor for debate. And one of the reasons, Governor Cooper vetoed the 2019-2020 budget was because it did not include expanding Medicaid. And last year (2021), we almost got there—both Senate and House leadership expressed support for finding a solution but pushed off a comprehensive solution until 2022. This movie (like me) is getting kind of old.
Now if you are a fan of the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” you know that the lead character does finally break out of the time warp and gets to move forward, but he must decide to change—to do things differently. I think that is where we are now in our multi-year fight for closing the coverage gap.
For NC, this change includes the newly established Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Access to Health Care and Medicaid Expansion. This committee is the first real opportunity that many policymakers will have to truly learn about the burden the coverage gap is having on our citizens and our state and hear about the benefits that closing the gap can bring to our people. There is a commitment to figure out a solution—not just to talk about it.
Care4Carolina will be part of those discussions and work to make sure that committee members hear from the best and the brightest in our state on this important issue. And then we will call on you, all the people who care about this issue to make your voices heard, so that our legislators know that the people are behind them when it comes time to close the gap.
I don’t know if the groundhog will see his shadow this year, but I think he may just see legislation to close the coverage gap pass in North Carolina. We can always hope that spring will come early.
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