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Chapel Hill Town Council Urges State Leaders To Expand Medicaid

By Rachel Nash Posted February 24, 2014 at 11:45 pm

The Chapel Hill Town Council is urging North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in the state to those who are uninsured. This coming after the Republican-controlled state legislature decided last year to reject the federally-funded extension offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Bill Murray, of the nonprofit group Health Care for all NC, brought the resolution before the Council Monday night, asking them for support. He said it was his mission to publicize the need for expanding Medicaid.

“I believe that health care is a right. We have come to the point in our nation’s history where I think most people see it as a right, but we do not have that in existence. What we have in reality is inequality. Health care for those who can afford, very little for those who can’t,” Murray said.

The Council unanimously adopted the resolution at Monday evening’s meeting. Council members Lee Storrow and Matt Czajkowski were not present for the vote.

Council member Maria Palmer urged Murray and others advocating for health care expansion to keep their efforts going.

“I think that personally, I am offended, deeply offended that our representatives in Raleigh think so little of the health of the folks they serve,” Palmer said.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law would have provided federal funding to expand Medicaid to all North Carolinians earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It places the burden of cost on the federal government for the first three years. After that, the state would pay 10 percent of the cost.

The N.C. Department of Health & Human Services estimated that accepting Medicaid expansion would have extended insurance coverage to more than 500,000 North Carolinians and saved the state approximately $65 million over 10 years.

“Nothing that our State Legislature has put up as an excuse for turning down the Medicaid expansion holds water. It really doesn’t,”  Murray said.

McCrory has stated that Medicaid reform is one of his top priorities for 2014, but also argued that it is flawed system and shouldn’t be expanded until changes have been implemented.

Dr. Gustavo Montana, a professor of Radiation Oncology at Duke University,  joined Murray Monday to back for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.

Montana said has met many suffering people who cannot access health care because of financial difficulties.

“There is no logical, no reason whatsoever, for the state to refuse to accept funds to expand Medicaid,” he said.

Chapel Hill resident Bert Gurganus said to the Council that the less fortunate are often forgotten in our area due to the predominantly affluent demographic in Orange County.

“These people don’t make much money. The threshold for having a single person get on Medicaid is $14,500. If you think about it, a person who is working at $7.00 an hour part-time would have to work over two thousand hours. That is 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year in order to be eligible for Medicaid. I think that is a shame,” Gurganus said.

The N.C Institute of Medicine estimated that more than 16 percent of Orange County residents under age 65, or more than 22,000 people, were uninsured as of 2010-11, as cited in the resolution.

Carol Edmonds, who also spoke to the Council, is a documentary filmmaker currently producing a piece on state lawmaker’s decision not to expand Medicaid. She said she has encountered many North Carolinians who living without health care or are struggling to pay for it.

“The people who I have interviewed are selling their homes to pay their medical bills,” she said. “They are moving into shelters so that they can get meds and access to doctors. They are delaying treatments and are risking infections because they have the “High Risk” plan through the state, which requires a $5,000 deductible. These people cannot afford to pay for the treatments that they need.”

Murray shared that in November of 2013, Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich proposed a similar resolution advocating for expansive access to health care, which was adopted by the Board of Commissioners.

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