WESTERN CAROLINA MEDICAL SOCIETY Let’s close the coverage gap for all uninsured in NC
Dr. Mark McNeill
Wouldn’t you want to bring a $4 billion investment into NC that could add 40,000 jobs to our economy in just five years? What if these funds also helped address the opioid crisis and lowered insurance premiums? You probably would.
NC House Bill (HB) 655 – NC Health Care for Working Families — can do just that right now by closing the coverage gap for employed but uninsured North Carolinians. This bill is a major step in the right direction to provide affordable healthcare and improve the wellness of our region. It is estimated to cover over 300,000 North Carolinians who currently do not qualify for Medicaid. The plan also focuses on preventative care and wellness. However, I am concerned that the work requirement creates unnecessary administrative barriers for struggling and vulnerable North Carolinians.
Closing NC’s health insurance coverage gap through HB 655 would provide hundreds of thousands of our state’s working poor access to life-saving healthcare. Thirty-seven states, red and blue, have closed the coverage gap by increasing access to Medicaid using federal funds. Closing the coverage gap has been key to Ohio’s positive results in turning the tide on their opioid crisis. But the work requirement in the NC bill creates a layer of administrative red tape that has been shown to be ineffective at boosting employment and a harmful barrier to accessing care, particularly to those with disabilities.1 It has also been deemed illegal when included in other similar laws in Kentucky and Arkansas.2
As a family physician, all too often I care for patients who put off going to the doctor because they can’t afford it, with catastrophic results ending up with emergency room visits, costly hospital stays, or even death. That is why I’m encouraged by a bill that will significantly close the coverage gap, reduce costs and save lives.
As President of the Western Carolina Medical Society Association (WCMS), I am optimistic about WNC’s future. WCMS is advocating for affordable healthcare coverage for ALL residents of NC. The health of each individual is paramount to achieving a healthy population in NC. I applaud our state legislators for working hard on a bill that is a major step in the right direction in closing the coverage gap and improving the wellness of our region. We at the medical society want to continue to encourage efforts by our legislators in both parties to work together on solutions like HB 655, to close the coverage gap, preferably without unnecessary and harmful administrative barriers. By working together I know we can find a solution to the growing healthcare crisis of the uninsured. I urge them to do so.