The Fayetteville Observer 6/29/19
A little while ago, a woman called me and asked if I could see her husband as a free patient. “What’s wrong with him?” I asked. She said he’s having severe chest pains. I took a quick history and found out that he was 63 years old and had diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, which put him at high risk of a heart attack. I told her he needed to go to the Emergency Room right away but, when he got out, he was welcome to see me as a free patient.
A few days passed and I didn’t hear from her. Finally, I called the woman back and asked her how her husband was doing. She told me he had died … of a massive heart attack. I asked her why he was unable to see a doctor earlier. She told me that despite working two jobs, he couldn’t afford health insurance and was waiting until he turned 65 and got Medicare. He never turned 65. He was two years too young to live.
Right now, in Raleigh, our lawmakers are negotiating the budget and deciding whether or not to expand Medicaid. If they do expand Medicaid, 500,000 North Carolinians will get access to healthcare and 90 percent of that cost will be paid for by the federal rather than state government. If the decision seems obvious to you, you aren’t alone. Already, 37 states (including D.C.) have voted to expand Medicaid and North Carolina remains part of a very small and rapidly shrinking group where lawmakers have put politics above the health of their citizens.
Medicaid expansion would be good for North Carolina because it will save lives, save money, and generate jobs throughout the state.
Medicaid expansion would save money, for both the state and for its citizens. In another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Ayanian and his colleagues from the University of Michigan argue that Medicaid expansion delivers economic benefits to state budgets. States spend less on services covered by the expanded Medicaid program, such as state mental health and correctional health programs for adults who were previously ineligible for such programs. Michigan enrolled approximately 600,000 low-income adults in their Medicaid expansion plan and has decreased its annual state spending for such programs by $235 million.
Dr. John Ayanian and his colleagues from University of Michigan conclude in one of their studies: “Our results indicate that continuing Michigan’s Medicaid expansion in 2017 and beyond will have clear economic benefits for the state.” They further conclude that ”(s)imilar economic benefits are almost certainly occurring to the other 30 states that have expanded Medicaid, but not to the 19 states that have not done so. State policy makers can consider these benefits along with health and financial effects for enrollees as they decide whether to continue or initiate Medicaid expansion.”
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