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RALEIGH, NC — Yesterday marked the start of Medicaid Awareness Month, a time where advocates highlight the critical importance of Medicaid in communities across the country. For leaders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease exacerbates existing challenges for states like North Carolina that have failed to expand Medicaid, including the hundreds of thousands that fall in the health care coverage gap and rural hospitals that have struggled to keep their doors open.
Just yesterday, after the Administration decided not to open up enrollment in Obamacare exchanges during the pandemic, Vice President Pence said “we have Medicaid for underprivileged Americans.” He seems to have forgotten that in 2013, Thom Tillis passed the law that prevented North Carolina from expanding Medicaid, preventing over 600,000 North Carolinians from gaining health coverage. And now, that means they are forced to make a difficult decision — skip treatment or go to the doctor and get slapped with a hefty bill, which could be more than $20,000 according to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation. As North Carolina faces massive unemployment, it is critical for low-income adults to have a place to turn for coverage.
Without Medicaid expansion, North Carolina’s rural hospitals are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, which is only made worse by this public health crisis. One doctor told NBC news he is “prepared to zero-out his own salary but fears he may soon have to lay off members of his staff to keep his facility afloat.”
This Medicaid Awareness Month, it’s more important than ever to have leaders that will fight to expand coverage, not take it away. Thom Tillis’ vote to block Medicaid expansion left North Carolina unprepared for the public health crisis we face today. And when he went to Washington, he continued his efforts to dismantle health care coverage by voting 13 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Cal Cunningham believes that health care should be available to every North Carolinian, not just the privileged few. In the Senate, he will work to protect and improve the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option and advocating for expanded Medicaid in North Carolina.