The North Carolina General Assembly convened April 28, 2020. A discussion of myriad issues, all with the intent of a wide range of appropriate responses to the long-term impacts of COVID-19, is the focal point. Data and subsequent proposals provided by our NC COVID-19 Taskforce, subdivided into four categories; Healthcare, Education, Economy, and Governmental Operations, informs the scheduled session. The people have spoken, they want their jobs and livelihoods back. I call on the General Assembly, in place of a return to economic normalcy and to expedite that goal, among others, expand Medicaid.
We in North Carolina are known for, First in Flight, First in Freedom, and now possibly First in COVID-19 vaccines. A new study is underway, funded by the General Assembly, to test those previously infected by COVID-19 for developed antibodies, to create vaccines eventually. Our doctors, like Dr. John Sanders, chief of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health, to create a vaccine more quickly, depend on an expanded sample size. Patient outreach, according to Dr. Sanders, is essential to sample size expansion; however, access to healthcare poses an obstacle in that many North Carolinians, fearing the cost of a doctor's visit, have not been. The expansion of Medicaid would allow for broader patient outreach, resulting in a vaccine sooner. We need more than the General Assembly's half measures to win this war.
Half a million North Carolinians stand at a crossroads, where increasing debts intersects decreasing bank accounts. Our ability to maintain the public's health, protect our neighbors, friends, and family from financial disaster – and protect rural hospitals such as those in Henderson County. The expansion of Medicaid supports my community that has experienced a spike in confirmed cases, jumping to 129 cases and 13 deaths, from uncontrolled costs associated with the outbreak. Furthermore, expansion of Medicaid would permit rural counties, like Henderson County, to sustain the fight along with the rest of NC in flattening the curve of community spread, by arming us with the necessary funding, personnel, and PPE to meet COVID-19 headlong; tools for which we are in desperate need. The expansion of Medicaid increases our likelihood of returning to normal.
I believe we are at the peak of a dire health crisis. The elderly and immunocompromised are the most susceptible to the worst outcomes of the virus. Governor Cooper's Shelter-in-Place Executive Order should remain in effect so that it does not make the situation in our rural retirement community worse, instead of plateauing, then receding as is the intended result. I am calling on our leaders, of both parties, whose sworn responsibility it is to protect, fight, and advocate for us, their communities, to expand Medicaid eligibility in our state.
The Coronavirus pandemic has put unimaginable stresses in all areas of North Carolina, from the state's citizens, across the political spectrum, to the NC Department of Employment Security, to hospitals and clinics and medical professionals – as well as law enforcement. There are heroes, brave men and women, grim-faced, standing on the frontlines, knowingly charging headlong into danger and working long and endless hours for something larger than themselves, us. They are there for all of us every day. So now, it is time for our state leaders to remember who they swore to protect, fight, and advocate for and be there for our frontline heroes and us. Expand Medicaid in our state.
Image Source: NC Poverty Research Fund 2020