Pat McCrory, ever the pragmatist, wanted to wait and see how the Supreme Court ruled on a key provision of the Affordable Care Act before deciding whether he supported expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. In June, SCOTUS upheld the provision. So where does the governor stand?
"It's a very complex issue," McCrory said after the decision. "You can't just say you are for or against it."
Actually, you can. It's pretty easy. Last week, newly elected Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order expanding Medicaid, making an additional 300,000 residents of the state eligible for health coverage. Thirty other states have also made the obvious decision to accept billions of dollars from the feds so that their poorest residents can go to the doctor.
North Carolina is not one of them. And so as many as 500,000 residents are currently going uninsured so that McCrory and other Raleigh Republicans can feel self-righteous about opposing the ACA while chewing on sea bass at Sullivan's.
Amire Shealey may soon find himself among the uninsured. For most of his life, the 25-year-old N.C. Central student has been acutely aware that health care isn't free. He grew up below the poverty line in a single-parent family and was diagnosed with chronic asthma in the fourth grade. "My mom always explained to me that it was the government paying for my hospital visits," Shealey says.
When he turned 18, he lost his health coverage. "I kept applying [for Medicaid], but I kept getting denied, even though I was only making about $10,000 a year," he says. It was only several years later, when he enrolled at NCCU, that Shealey returned to the ranks of the insured.
"I graduate in May, though," Shealey says. "And if I don't have a job lined up with benefits, I might be in that same boat again because the state won't expand Medicaid. It's a scary situation."
Last semester, Shealey took a public health policy course taught by David Jolly. One of the requirements was that students complete 15 hours of community-service work related to increasing people's access to health care. Shealey and four other students opted to work for a Durham-based organization Jolly heads called the Coalition for Health Care of North Carolina. The students knocked on doors and collected 1,500 signatures urging McCrory to expand Medicaid.
On Wednesday, a delegation from the coalition is bringing those signatures, plus 1,500 more, to Raleigh, where they're set to meet with McCrory's deputy chief of staff and his policy liaison with the Department of Health and Human Services. Before they go, they're holding a public send-off event at the CCB Plaza in downtown Durham, from noon to 1 p.m.
"We're not naïve," Jolly says. "We know this meeting won't immediately change the situation. But we believe it's important that ordinary citizens in North Carolina make themselves heard on this issue. We're just trying to put as much pressure as possible on leaders in Raleigh."
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