Chapel Hill town leaders push for Medicaid expansion

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 05:24 PM

Chapel Hill is now among the municipalities and counties across the state urging the General Assembly to expand Medicaid.

During their Monday night meeting, Chapel Hill town council members passed a unanimous vote for a resolution that calls for Gov. Pat McCrory and the state legislature to accept funds to finance the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.

 “I am very pleased that they did,” said Rep. Verla Insko, who represents Orange County in the General Assembly. “I think this is part of a statewide movement to get local elected officials at city and county levels to endorse this idea to go ahead and put pressure on the majority to address this in the short session.”

Another legislator from Orange County, Rep. Graig Meyer, said he “is in full agreement with the Chapel Hill resolution.”

“I believe that the state should expand Medicaid,” he said. “Citizens have already paid into the system and it is unfortunate that North Carolinians are not benefitting from it. I am very concerned about those going without healthcare.”

Chapel Hill resident Bill Murray brought the matter to the council for consideration and said that state officials seem to have misconceptions about how federal funds are used.

“The money goes to the poor, right? Wrong,” Murray said. “It goes to the medical providers.”

Murray said that the state lost 25,000 jobs when it opted out of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, leaving 500,000 people without adequate medical coverage.

“I believe that healthcare is a right,” he said. “At this point in our nation’s history, a lot of people believe it is a right, but we don’t have that. Healthcare is for those who can afford it.”

The resolution states that expansion of Medicaid would create more than 25,000 jobs by 2016 and could save 2,840 lives a year. Failure to expand, it adds, would result in increases of 2 percent to private insurance premiums. It would cost employers across the state between $65 million and $98 million in fees, the resolution said.

Murray said that he hopes other North Carolina groups join the effort to expand Medicaid.

Gustavo Montana said he could see “no logical reason for the state to refuse funds to expand Medicaid.”

Bert Gurhanus of Healthcare for All N.C. said many people don’t have access to preventative care because of a lack of health insurance. For some, he said, simply missing time from work to go to the doctor is a calculated risk.

“Many of us take it (medical insurance) for granted because the people we live and work with have health insurance,” he said. “We often forget that many of the folks who make this community great don’t make much money. Many of these people are minimum-wage workers.”

Documentary filmmaker Carol Edmonds said that she just completed interviews with people across the state that would benefit from Medicaid expansion.

Some must choose between keeping their homes and paying medical bills, she said. Council member Maria Palmer said that she was “really offended that our representatives in Raleigh think so little of the health of the folks they serve.”