Posted by: Allison Rice | February 3, 2013

North Carolina newspapers talk Medicaid expansion

A few newspapers in North Carolina have weighed in on Medicaid expansion over the weekend.  Yesterday, we highlighted the Asheville Citizen-Times editorial that questioned the wisdom of legislation rejecting any participation in “Obamacare.”

Yesterday’s editions also included an editorial in the Raleigh News & Observer advising “A grain of salt with a Medicaid audit.”  While acknowledging the need to address issues raised in the audit, the N & O urged leaders not to use it as an excuse not to expand Medicaid:

Some Republican leaders in the legislature will use this audit as evidence that the state’s Medicaid program is so dysfunctional that the last thing it needs is more recipients as allowed by the federal health care reform law. That would amount to political views, namely the Republicans’ opposition to health care reform in principle, trumping common sense and compassion. If those 500,000 additional people who are eligible for Medicaid are simply barred from participating by the state’s intentional inaction, where do they go and what do they do?

To the emergency room, or to sick beds?

The problems in the program that resulted in overspending have to be fixed. But these problems should not be used as an excuse for denying half a million people adequate health care that will cost the state virtually nothing for several years. And the real reason for not expanding Medicaid to take of those citizens – that Republicans in the legislature don’t like President Obama and his health care reform act – isn’t good enough.

In the Fayetteville Observer, editorial page editor Tim White urges Governor McCrory not to engage in the same knee-jerk rejection to Medicaid expansion and state participation in the exchange as legislative leaders.

McCrory said Thursday that his mind is still open about an expanded Medicaid program. Good. Perhaps he understands what Berger doesn’t get: Those people who can’t get expanded Medicaid benefits will be showing up at local emergency rooms, where they’ll get the most expensive medical care available. And the rest of us will pay for it, in our taxes and in higher insurance premiums.

I hope the governor continues to steer a middle course through these issues. But if he’s going to nudge the General Assembly’s leadership to follow him, he may have some rough seas ahead.

In an editorial titled “The injustice of health disparity,” the Durham Herald Sun also urged the governor to expand Medicaid.  In an editorial, the paper referred to a community forum that detailed the racial and economic health disparities experienced in the Durham community.  Those disparities create an urgent need for health care access:

Those statistics should give our legislators pause as they balk at taking part in extending Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. Gov. Pat McCrory has targeted reforming the state’s administration of Medicaid, and we cannot fault that goal. He says no decision on Medicaid expansion can come until after that is complete.

We hope the state will move swiftly to take part in the Medicaid expansion, which will deliver insurance coverage to many low-income families and will help to address health inequality.

In the end, the health gap in our community is, as Kotch put it Thursday, “a huge injustice.” We can help to close it.

The recurring theme here? On Medicaid, Governor McCrory needs to lead, not follow.

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