Bob Etheridge has an op-ed piece in today’s Fayetteville Observer about the state’s decision to turn down Medicaid expansion. There’s little here that hasn’t been said elsewhere. But the former congressman, whose vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act didn’t help him politically, says it well. One point that hasn’t figured widely in the debate is the importance of Medicaid expansion for recently returning veterans, about a quarter of whom are uninsured and unconnected to a VA health facility:
In our state those without insurance are most often working hard at low-wage jobs without benefits. Many of them are veterans. Surveys show that more than a quarter of all service members recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan do not have insurance and are not connected to the Department of Veterans Affairs health system.
National estimates show that Medicaid expansion would benefit half of all uninsured veterans. If those numbers held true for North Carolina, expanding Medicaid would insure more than 25,000 veterans in our state. It is hard to imagine how we could decline to help more than 500,000 of our brothers and sisters in need; but it is unconscionable to leave behind our nation’s heroes.
Etheridge also calls out the politics that have driven the expansion debate:
National organizations have spent millions of dollars in an unprecedented smear campaign against health reform. When I voted for the legislation three years ago, I knew it could cost me an election. But some principles are bigger than politics; some causes are larger than one campaign. It is now time to leave the misinformation and the talking points behind and do what we all know is right for our community.
Well said. Let’s hope cooler heads will prevail next year.