Join the Campaign
A study released this week revealed the devastating costs for states like North Carolina that have failed to expand Medicaid during the coronavirus pandemic, including people losing coverage and facing sky high medical bills, or pushing rural hospitals even closer to the brink of closure.
This was “completely avoidable” in North Carolina, if Thom Tillis hadn’t blocked expansion while he was Speaker of the North Carolina House.
The report said that in states without expanded Medicaid, about 40 percent of people who have lost their jobs and health insurance will be left with no coverage at all, compared to less than 25 percent in states that have expanded Medicaid.
Without proper coverage, people are less likely to go to the doctor for fear of “financial catastrophe.” Rural hospitals that were already on the brink of bankruptcy have been forced to cancel elective surgeries, “a fiscal lifeblood for any hospital,” which has led them further down the path to closing their doors.
For underserved communities, particularly African Americans, that have already felt the brunt of Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid, the coronavirus is exacerbating health disparities and inequities of the health care system that have existed for far too long.
Because Tillis passed the law blocking Medicaid expansion, that’s the reality in North Carolina, where more than 634,000 North Carolinians could have coverage under expanded Medicaid.
Cal Cunningham knows that expanding Medicaid would save lives and improve communities, which is why he has called for its expansion.
Read more about the report below.
By Dylan Scott – May 5, 2020
Republican-led states have for years refused to expand Medicaid eligibility to many of their poorest residents, and now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and an unprecedented economic crisis, thousands upon thousands of Americans will fall through that hole in the safety net and end up uninsured.
This was completely avoidable.
The Affordable Care Act was designed to extend Medicaid coverage to everybody living in or near poverty. But Republican resistance to the health care law, enabled by a 2012 ruling from the US Supreme Court, prevented that vision from becoming a reality. Today, 14 states have not expanded Medicaid access. Poor people — particularly black Americans living in the South — have already been paying the price for that obstruction for years.
But today, in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, many thousands more are going to discover the harsh reality that the United States has failed to adequately protect its poorest citizens from financial ruin in a medical emergency.
New estimates from the Urban Institute provide a fuller understanding of the cost of those decisions during the Covid-19 crisis. With record unemployment upon us, the institute’s researchers anticipate that between 25 million and 43 million Americans will lose their employer-sponsored health coverage along with their job. In the 36 states (plus Washington, DC) that have expanded Medicaid through the ACA, less than a quarter of those people are expected to become uninsured. Most of them are expected to end up on Medicaid, as intended.
But in the 14 states that still refuse to expand Medicaid, a full decade after Obamacare became law, about 40 percent of the people who lose their jobs and their health insurance will end up with no coverage at all.
It gets worse. Rural hospitals in states that refused to expand Medicaid were already more vulnerable to closure than hospitals in states that did expand. Now they have been forced to cancel elective surgeries, a fiscal lifeblood for any hospital, pushing them even closer to closing.
The South, in particular, has been a bulwark against Medicaid expansion. No southern states save Arkansas and Louisiana have taken the generous deal offered by Obamacare. Almost all of the 2.3 million people who’ve been left uninsured because their state won’t expand Medicaid live in the South, half of them in Texas and Florida alone.
And given the demographics of those states, it is disproportionately poor black and Hispanic Americans who are paying the price for decisions made by frequently white and wealthy politicians. Those choices have consequences, especially today, when black people are dying from Covid-19 at higher rates than their white neighbors.
Activists have tried to make inroads in those states, some of which don’t make ballot initiatives a viable path for policymaking. Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, has been locked in a battle with his Republican state legislature over the issue. The story of Medicaid expansion is not over yet. It has been slowly but steadily extending its reach over the last 10 years, helping more of the people it was supposed to help.