WESTERN NC — (October 8, 2021) — On Thursday evening, Clay became the latest county in conservative Western North Carolina to pass a resolution urging legislators in Raleigh to close the state’s health insurance coverage gap. The move comes as the NC General Assembly is negotiating a final state budget with Gov. Roy Cooper.
Clay County commissioners voted in favor of a resolution supporting closing the health insurance coverage gap similar to those already adopted in Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties in Western North Carolina and a half a dozen more across the state.
The resolutions have been championed by Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital, among other local health and economic development advocates including the business group Mountain BizWorks. Cooper has described closing the gap as one of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ top priorities and has urged commissioners to send a signal to lawmakers that the entire region is onboard.
The resolutions have also garnered the support of NC Senator Kevin Corbin (R-50), who has spoken directly with county leaders.
What Is The Coverage Gap?
The “coverage gap” refers to people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get help in the private insurance marketplace. Prior to COVID-19, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that if North Carolina closed its coverage gap, over 400,000 North Carolinians would gain health insurance. Closing the gap also creates jobs.
The federal government covers 90 percent of the costs for the 38 other states that have elected to close their gaps through Medicaid. Federal law dictates that this funding level will not decrease. It was a good deal before – now, it’s even better.
The American Rescue Plan provides states with a new incentive: a two-year, five percent increase in the federal match rate for Medicaid. For North Carolina, that would mean an influx of around $1.7 billion over the next two years.
Thirty eight states have opted to close the gap. In an op-ed widely published across Western NC, Matt Raker, executive director of Mountain BizWorks wrote: “As we look to rebound from the damage of the pandemic, one of the surest ways to jumpstart our business prospects is to close North Carolina’s health care coverage gap. And right now state legislators negotiating our state’s final budget can do just that. The need has never been keener. The terms have never been better.”
Republicans Who Close the Gap Win
Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature voted to approve Medicaid expansion in 2018. Every Republican legislator in Virginia who sought reelection following their votes to expand Medicaid won their Republican primaries or ran unopposed.
In Montana, all five Republican legislators who sought reelection following their votes to expand Medicaid in 2016 won their Republican primaries or ran unopposed.
The Republican-controlled legislature then reauthorized Medicaid expansion in 2018. At that point, 22 of the 24 Republicans who sought re-election after their votes to reauthorize Medicaid expansion won their Republican primaries or ran unopposed.
Every North Carolina Republican legislator who co-sponsored House Bill 655, NC Health Care for Working Families who sought reelection won their Republican primaries.
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