This week, a State Of Emergency was issued for North Carolina due to the threat of Coronavirus. Governor Cooper issued this order at a time when the virus continues to spread in our state, and officials are working diligently to learn more about how to reduce the impact. The virus, which originated in China, is primarily a respiratory disease with symptoms similar to the flu such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. The virus has spread quickly and with great efficiency around the world.
Dr. Wesley Burks is CEO of UNC Health Care and one of many health care experts across the country working on appropriate coronavirus response. Burks asserts that Governor Cooper’s declaration is the “appropriate next step” as the “illness is enough of a threat that protective measures” are warranted.
This declaration makes North Carolina eligible for federal funding in response to this crisis. It is imperative according to Burks that the barriers keeping people from receiving care be removed, stating that if a person thinks that they may have the virus, they “should not have to worry about whether they can pay for care; if they have symptoms and believe they may have been exposed, they should call their doctor’s office.” North Carolina has already experienced several cases related to individuals who have traveled from Washington State and Italy, and who had close contact with a case in Georgia.
Our communities are facing what could be one of the most serious threats to public health in generations. At this moment, there are over 600,000 residents in North Carolina in need of coverage for healthcare. The people most vulnerable to the coronavirus are the elderly, children under 5, and persons in poverty, all of which are categories of North Carolinians that fall under this number that are in need of Medicaid expansion. It is the prevailing belief of some, most recently our own NC State Senator Chuck Edwards, that Medicaid expansion cannot solve our state’s health care crisis. Medicaid expansion, Edwards argues, is “a fraught system.” He continues, “Adding more people to North Carolina’s already strained Medicaid system will further deteriorate access to medical services.” There is no greater threat to our state’s security (economic and health) than when our political leaders choose to bury their heads in the sand.
The people who need Medicaid expansion the most (low-income children, parents, and the elderly) cannot receive the necessary care because our current system is indeed fraught, with roadblocks, namely income thresholds which prevent people who need Medicaid the most from receiving coverage. In Henderson County alone, we have a ratio of 1,000+ people to 1 doctor. As a result of the neglect by individuals such as Senator Edwards to address this issue, we can expect, in his own words, “the average wait time to see a family physician is three weeks.” Imagine the stress that comes during a crisis such as this when our friends and family are not only unsure of if they will be able to pay for medical care, but when they will be able to see a doctor at all! A citizen of North Carolina, especially at a time of such uncertainty health-wise, should not have to worry about whether they have to choose between looking for care or paying their rent.
I believe that reasonable heads will prevail in this situation. Governor Cooper, not responding in fear but by being an informed leader, is taking the initiative to curb the spread of the virus in our state. Meanwhile, corporate shills who have obligations to special interests remain largely silent. We must elect leaders who take threats to our community seriously. When we come out on the other side of this crisis, those of us who take seriously our obligation to our communities will vote to expand Medicaid; not only to protect the most vulnerable among us during a crisis but to give all of us a better chance on any given day. Because a citizen of North Carolina, especially at a time of such uncertainty health-wise, should not have to worry about whether they have to choose between looking for care or paying their rent.
Dr. Burks insists that if any of us believe that we have symptoms of coronavirus, that we should seek medical care. Please, do not hesitate to set up an appointment. It is for your well-being, and for your friends, your family, and your neighbors as well.
Image Source: WBTV. 2020. https://www.wbtv.com/2020/03/11/health-officials-announce-eighth-case-coronavirus-north-carolina/
CDC’s most recent updates on the coronavirus: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/t0309-covid-19-update.html
Chuck Edwards’ response to Medicaid Expansion: http://hendersonvilletimesnews.nc.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=273489a74
Governor Cooper declares a State of Emergency: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article241055751.html?