The arrival of COVID-19 has shed new light on inequities among North Carolinians and the fragility of employer-sponsored health care coverage.

The single worst decision in the NC Legislature over the past 6 years is its failure to expand Medicaid coverage. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are being denied health insurance while billions of dollars are sent to Washington without any benefit to our own state. We know this is avoidable, but the Republican Party in Raleigh refuses to do what is both moral and prudent for the people of North Carolina.

Now more than ever, expanding Medicaid coverage is imperative to families who were reliant on employer-based insurance and now find themselves unable to afford care. What else matters if we are not healthy? Every citizen of North Carolina deserves to be healthy and have access to decent healthcare at a cost that doesn’t bankrupt our families.

Many points in politics can be debated but some points are so obvious to everyone that doing the right thing should be a natural reflex. We know that an unhealthy populace works less and earns less. They stop pursuing goals like education, upward mobility, marriage, having a family and owning a home, not by choice but by circumstance and a lack of opportunity that comes with illness.

As a society, we grow weaker physically, mentally and spiritually. Addiction to illegal drugs and alcohol rise. Many societal problems like unemployment, substance abuse and homelessness, begins most often, with poor physical and mental health and a lack of resources to be treated.

It is incumbent upon us to uphold our North Carolina values. Values like taking care of one another. Values that provide opportunity to all who seek it. Values that implore us to do better when we know better. Values that we teach our kids…to help those less fortunate than ourselves, wherever we can, whenever we can, in whatever ways we can.

While most of us would like to think “I have insurance and I can see a doctor whenever I need to. I’m not poor so why should the needs of the poor concern me?”, the stark truth is that most of us are living paycheck to paycheck with no wiggle room for a health crisis that we didn’t see coming.

The other stark truth is that not expanding Medicaid to an additional 500,000 eligible North Carolinians, costs us untold billions of dollars annually.

The Impact of COVID-19

—238,000. The number of NC residents that lost employer based health insurance due to COVID-19.

—20%. The percentage of NC’s non-elderly adult population without health insurance.

—7th. The national ranking of NC among states with the highest number of uninsured adults.

—478,776. The number of working-age adults in NC that lost their jobs in March, April and May.

—142,496. The amount of permanent job losses that NC may see.

—14%. The number of adults who say cost would deter them from seeking care for COVID symptoms.

—1 year. The length of time it will take before fully understanding the economic and health care consequences of the pandemic. 

The Downside of Denying Expanded Medicaid Coverage by the Numbers:

$8.3 billion. The amount of money NC taxpayers have paid into the Federal Government to support Medicaid expansion in 36 other states and D.C.

—738,000+. The number of uninsured NC citizens.

—30,000. The number of uninsured Veterans in NC.

—23,000. The number of uninsured family members of Veterans in NC.

—$10.6 million. The amount of money our state is losing every day.

—40%. The percentage of rural NC hospitals operating in the red. Just ask the folks

in Ashe County about their 2014 quarter-cent sales tax increase earmarked for the hospital.

—5. The number of rural hospitals in NC that have closed, with more on the chopping block.

—6. The number of years Republican legislators have willfully hurt hard-working, low-income North Carolinians and their families by refusing to expand Medicaid.

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news!

The Upside of Medicaid Expansion by the numbers:

–90%. The amount that would be paid by the Federal Government to expand Medicaid.

–10%. The amount that would be paid by the hospitals to expand Medicaid.

–0. The cost to you and I to expand Medicaid.

–40,000. The number of all types of jobs, not just healthcare jobs, added to NC under Medicaid expansion.

–39. The number of states that have already expanded coverage, and MANY of those are solidly red states.

–$14 billion. The amount of local tax revenue that expansion could provide throughout NC.

–84%. The odds of a rural hospital remaining open if it is located in a state that has expanded Medicaid.

Of all of these numbers, I find one other to be very significant. 3,300. That is the number of Ashe and Watauga County doors we knocked on throughout the 2018 campaign. When asked “what matters to you?” the most common answer by far was “affordable healthcare.” Not just as a person but as a Pastor, that answer was a punch in the gut because the solution was obvious. Expand Medicaid.

Once I defeated my opponent and won the privilege of representing Ashe and Watauga counties in the North Carolina House of Representatives, expanding Medicaid became personal for me because it was personal for the voters.

The last number I will leave you with is this…37. That is the number of times HB655 NC Healthcare for Working Families came to the floor for a vote between July 10, 2019 and September 11, 2019 and was not voted on. But I am not giving up.