WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Expanding Medicaid in this year’s state budget is a top priority for Governor Roy Cooper. His statewide trip to push for it brought him to Wilmington today.
Governor Roy Cooper met with childcare teachers at Noah’s Ark Children’s Center in Wilmington. In a roundtable discussion, teachers shared that too many of their colleagues are suffering from preventable diseases because they do not have access to health insurance.
“You work so hard but you still struggle,” said teacher Lauren Beasley.
Nineteen percent of early childhood educators in North Carolina do not have health insurance according to the Governor’s office. Several teachers who sat with the Governor rely on health insurance to come from either the jobs of their spouse or another family member.
“My passion is with the younger ones and it’s just really disappointing that I have to go back to school to do something else because of something like health insurance,” said teacher Camden Rivenbark who is losing insurance this month.
The issue of Medicaid has risen in the legislature in bills like HB 656, but not significantly in the House and Senate budgets. Today leading lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown issued a letter the Governor. In it he informed the Governor that staff from the Governor’s office said talks would not move forward on the budget if Medicaid is left out.
“It should be a part of this negotiation and I hope that it will be in the coming weeks or months,” said Governor Cooper. “It’s time for North Carolina to expand Medicaid and help our early childhood educators and other hardworking North Carolinians get access to quality health insurance.”
Republicans have said the expansion would hurt hospitals and private insurance users in the state.
Gov. Cooper has been traveling the state hearing from North Carolinians about the urgency to expand Medicaid according to his staff. In addition, he and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen have hosted six roundtables on the health coverage gap. Rural hospital CEOs, childcare directors and teachers, mental health providers, obstetricians and pediatricians, and families impacted by the opioid epidemic have all traveled to Raleigh from across North Carolina to urge lawmakers to close the health coverage gap.
The Governor’s office says expanding Medicaid in North Carolina would provide an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians with access to affordable health care. It would boost North Carolina’s economy by $4 billion and create an estimated 40,000 jobs according to his staff.
Currently, a family of four with working parents must earn less than $9,000 to qualify for Medicaid according to the Governor’s office. The same family’s income would have to exceed $25,000 to qualify for a federal subsidy to purchase health insurance.