A coalition of organizations held a community conversations event “Public Education, Medicaid Expansion and the State Budget” in Fayetteville on Thursday, 7/25/19. Attendees heard from many very well qualified speakers on two panels – the first panel included community leaders, doctors, patients on need for Medicaid Expansion and returning public education to place of importance in state, and the second panel included some history of Medicaid expansion in NC and current shenanigans and chances with past and present lawmakers.
The community conversations event began at 6pm, and co-hosts included NC Justice Center, Fayetteville NOW, Cumberland County Association of Educators, ARPI, Action NC, and NC NAACP.
The seats were filled up early, and more seats had to be added later – a few rows in the back, and seats up the aisle for teens who had something to add!
Either one of the two panels could have lasted the whole event length, but we were honored to see both. Nicole Dozier, director of the Health Advocacy Project at NC Justice Center, moderated the whole event, including both panels.
- Pastor Fallon Proctor, with first hand stories of real people struggling with medication and health issues, as well as food insecurity.
- Rick Glazier, former state representative for 13.5 years, lawyer, professor, now leads the NC Justice Center.
- Dr. Naveed Aziz, with first hand stories of patients struggling with lack of insurance coverage, medication and health issues. Dr. Aziz also deals directly with insurance and Medicaid.
- Carol Stubbs, president of the Cumberland County Association of Educators (CCAE)
- Dr. Eric Mansfield – ENT doctor, former state Senator, who recently had his own near-death experience. How his care differed from Tarsha Gunn’s.
- Tarsha Gunn – a former educator who got very sick as a relatively young woman and fell in and out of Medicaid coverage limit, in and out of being able to work.
Every speaker had a lot to add.
Dr. Aziz was speaking on the economic benefits of expanding Medicaid, and gave some history of expectations with regard to Affordable Care Act/Obamacare and Medicaid expansion.
The latest 2019 numbers are that over 620,000 North Carolinians would benefit from expanding Medicaid. Dr. Aziz recently published an article about one of her patients who died trying to wait until age 65, and Medicare, but did not make it, and the problem of not expanding Medicaid.
Dr. Aziz pointed out that the system under ACA/Obamacare was designed to work WITH Medicaid expansion. Dr. Aziz pointed out that hospital subsidies for poor people were taken away (under Obamacare) because there would be (free/100% paid) Medicaid expansion to take care of it. Then some states decided to refuse to expand Medicaid. With nothing to replace the money, too many hospitals are closing down – 5 or 6 already in NC alone.
Dr. Aziz can see systemic issues with Medicaid and insurance as well.
Do you know that ‘drug addiction is not considered disability?’ Makes it much harder to treat these cases of extreme opioid addiction.
Also prisoners can’t get Medicaid coverage unless admitted to the hospital for more than 24 hours. So taxpayers pay.
Women are only covered while pregnant, and up to 60 days postpartum. As moms after that point, they are on their own. Unless and until they get pregnant again. High risk pregnancy/delivery can cost $300,000. Best case for perfect conditions, still costs a few thousand. If women had health insurance beforehand, they could be a lot healthier before getting pregnant – helpful to them, their potential children, and less expensive for taxpayers. Why wait for it to be a problem.
Tarsha Gunn had chronic congestive heart failure at 41. Doctors told her she had the heart of an almost 90 year-old!! Gunn is the mother of two children. She had been a teacher. Medicaid covered her and took care of some problems. At one point, Gunn was feeling better, so she was kicked off Medicaid. She tried to work, but ended up back in the hospital, in bad shape. The system isn’t set up to keep her on medicine and working.
Dr. Eric Mansfield survived a near death experience when his heart stopped while he was driving! However, Dr. Mansfield has good private insurance coverage and was treated completely differently than Tarsha Gunn was by the system. He did some comparing and contrasting.
The second panel included 6 current and former lawmakers, with 3 former lawmakers at one table and 3 current lawmakers at the other. Nicole Dozier continued to moderate. Former Rep. Diane Parfitt graciously agreed to participate, although not forewarned!
<picture of second panel>
In 2019, the state senators have been extremely resistant to the idea of expanding Medicaid. The conference report was created with little dialogue or discussion with the public or with the minority party. Once Governor Cooper vetoed the conference report, the Governor sent a counter offer.
There was some discussion of the Conference Report/ncga version of the budget versus what Governor Cooper originally requested – areas included franchise tax rate – huge cuts on top of cuts, reducing corporate tax to 2.5%, which may be the lowest rate in the whole country, early childhood education, school construction needs, teacher pay, massive pollution (GenX, Algae in Lake Gaston, can’t swim in Neuse River), raises for state employees, and of course Medicaid expansion.
Do you know that whereas about 16 percent of students used to go into education in NC, NOW ONLY FOUR PERCENT ARE GOING INTO EDUCATION!!! Wow.
There are very different visions for North Carolina. How we treat each other in the state is all in this budget – Cooper’s version supports people and the Senate cuts people off from support.