The North Carolina General Assembly continues to wage a war against the poor and vulnerable in our state, further fanning the flames of health care inequality. The fuel of this inferno, however, is real people’s lives. It’s time for the North Carolina General Assembly to put out the flames of poverty, sickness and death.
Year after year, the legislature has failed to expand Medicaid and provide lifesaving health insurance to an estimated 500,000 people in our state. Instead of working on a moral policy agenda that will uplift all North Carolinians, state legislators continue to play political games at the expense of the most vulnerable, all in the name of an effort that is supposed to “take care” of the poor and the sick.
There has been a solution available since the passage of the Affordable Care Act with federal dollars that could boost our economy. That solution is Medicaid expansion. As it has in other states, this legislative action would immediately give coverage to the half a million North Carolinians who need it most. But the North Carolina GOP still refuses to introduce Medicaid expansion.
Instead, their idea for “closing” the coverage gap is to offer a bill with onerous and dangerous provisions that threaten to kick people off of existing insurance plans precisely when they need health care the most. Barriers like the work reporting requirement have a racist history and try to create a distinction between deserving and undeserving citizens. If any one of God’s children gets sick, they deserve to get health care without having to show a pay stub. The majority of those who would not meet the NC GOP’s proposed work requirements are caring for children or family members. Others may be working, but unable to sustain the proposed minimum number of required hours because of child care obligations, lack of access to good, full time jobs, or poor health.
If you believe work reporting requirements sound cruel and unnecessary, a federal judge agrees with you. He just found that these types of requirements, ones that led to 18,000 Arkansans losing coverage, are wrong and struck them down. Instead of taking that ruling to heart, our legislators are still pushing for these administrative roadblocks in their new bill.
Yet, it seems even that is not enough for these extremists.
People living paycheck to paycheck would also be required by their proposed legislation to pay a two percent premium in order to access Medicaid benefits. Families struggle every day to make rent and put food on the table. They can’t afford to pay a premium. Did Jesus charge a premium to the poor to heal them?
I have said it before, but the lawmakers in Raleigh are not listening. When you deny health coverage to the poorest and neediest people, we are talking about something akin to political murder. The Bible says in Ezekiel 22 that politicians become like wolves devouring the people and do not care for the needy.
We need every legislator to embrace Medicaid expansion, not false and hollow farces of supposed coverage. We need every legislator to take a moral inventory and move to a single-payer universal health care system that does not discriminate based on race or socioeconomic status or because of pre-existing conditions. The only way this will happen, however, is if we unite our voices together and demand it.
It is time for the people who are elected into these positions of power to start putting the needs of the people above corporations, lobbyists and extremist party ideologies. We need your voices, and we need them now.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is President of the Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.