The North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a petition Nov. 26 against Governor Pat McCrory’s plans to deny Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
The document calls for a special state Congressional session to be held in order to overturn a Mar. 7 law denying nearly 500,000 low-income N.C. residents health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The letter is authored by four clergymen, Rev. Rodney Sadler, Rev. William Turner, Elder Carrie Bolton and Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, and thus far has garnered over 3,000 signatures. The letter refers to many of the state’s legislative policies as “immoral” and uses a religious tone to communicate its message.
“You have said that as you govern you are ‘not afraid to step on toes,’” the letter reads, referring directly to McCrory. “As you step on toes, we pray you will not step on God’s toes. We pray you have the grace and wisdom to accept the federal funds for the Medicaid and unemployment insurance for those who are eligible.”
The letter noted that North Carolina currently has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation and, as such, many residents would benefit from the federal government’s Medicaid help. It added that increased Medicaid funding would give enough money to allow those previously unemployed to seek work.
“Meaningful employment and a living wage are necessary for human dignity,” the letter reads. “We believe everyone able to work, should work.”
Adam Searing, director of the Health Access Coalition for the N.C. Justice Center, said the letter is a step in the right direction in an ongoing battle.
“It keeps the moral issue alive,” Searing said. “Literally [there are] people who are not going to get life saving healthcare. It’s not a decision made purely on the politics—we hate Obama and we hate Obamacare, so let’s not do it.”
Following the Mar. 7 legislative decision to deny federal Medicaid funding, McCrory released a statement noting the state’s desire to reform the effectiveness of its current Medicaid programs before accepting additional funds.
“The federal government must allow North Carolina to come up with its own solutions,” McCrory was quoted as saying in a press release May 17.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger noted in the press release that the costs of Medicaid obstruct the state’s ability to spend taxpayer money on other facets of society, such as education, transportation and the judicial system.
House Speaker Thom Thillis emphasized Berger’s sentiments, adding that problems with Medicaid have contributed to issues with the state budget.
“We cannot continue to have frequent unplanned Medicaid shortfalls that wreak havoc on the budgeting process,” Thillis said in the press release. “Medicaid must stop being a budgetary time bomb.”
Despite the legislature’s reasons for denying Medicaid funding, the N.C. NAACP has not been the only organization to criticize the choice. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released a document detailing the effects of Medicaid expansion on North Carolina, should the state accept the funding.
The document notes that there are currently 720,000 uninsured adults eligible for Medicaid if the state were to expand following the Affordable Care Act. If the state were to expand, 587,000 of these uninsured adults would be newly eligible for enrollment while 133,000 are currently eligible but not enrolled.
The North Carolina Institute of Medicine also released a study breaking down the costs for newly eligible Medicaid income groups. The brief concluded that North Carolina should expand Medicaid so those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible.
Searing added that there has been pressure from other state governments to accept the funding, most recently with the election of Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. The proximity between Virginia and North Carolina could incentivize residents of North Carolina to move to Virginia.
Searing noted that McCrory may be in favor of Medicaid expansion, but the legislature is not.
“The governor would like to [expand] but the hiccups will be more in the legislature,” Searing said. “If the governor could show some leadership on this, we’d at least have a 50-50 chance.”
McCrory has continuously spoken out in favor of reforming the Medicaid program rather than expanding it. In an Oct. 28 press release, he stated that he does not plan to hold a special session.
“I will not sacrifice quality care for the people truly in need, nor risk further budget overruns by expanding an already broken system,” McCrory said in an Oct. 28 press release. “Calling a special session to further expand Obamacare in North Carolina is out of the question.”