FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RALEIGH (July 14, 2021) – This morning, Congressmembers James Clyburn, Val Demings, and Lloyd Doggett joined advocates uniting across the eight Southern non-expansion states in an event urging Congressional leadership to include a federal coverage gap fix in the budget reconciliation package.
The event, America’s Coverage Gap Crisis, follows growing momentum for federal action to close the coverage gap, including bills recently introduced by Senators Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff, and Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Doggett, advocacy from leading civil rights organizations and the Southerners for Medicaid Expansion Coalition, a joint letter from Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff, and a tri-caucus letter to Congressional leadership.
“I refer to the [Affordable Care Act] as the civil rights act of the 21st century,” said Congressman Clyburn of South Carolina. “We’ve taken the first step for the ACA. It is now time for us to take another step and close this coverage gap. It is not about the non-expansion states and the governors. It is not about them. It is about the people who cannot get health care. Do it because they are Americans who are deserving of the same rights and care.”
“This political, ideological decision to not expand Medicaid has a tangible price,” said Congresswoman Demings of Florida. “From 2013-2016, nearly 3,000 Floridians died due to decisions to refuse to expand Medicaid. I am a daughter of the South. Florida is my home. But hear me clearly: we have some homework to do.”
“For 12 years, people in Texas and people across the South have not received the promise of the ACA,” said Congressman Doggett of Texas. “Like many of us… I have seen the pain on a family’s face at enrollment drives when they find out they make too little to qualify for health insurance subsidies in the ACA Marketplace.”
More than 2 million uninsured adults across these eight Southern states and four other states have suffered in the Medicaid coverage gap without any real access to affordable healthcare. These individuals—the majority of whom are people of color—are retail clerks and caretakers, home health aides, and other essential workers. They are being denied a basic dignity available to their counterparts in 38 other states.
Today’s event also featured doctors, small business owners, rural health advocates, and faith leaders, who see the effects of the coverage gap firsthand in their communities.
“It’s heartbreaking to see patients wait to seek treatment,” said Dr. Brittney Anderson, a family physician working in rural Alabama. “It’s heartbreaking knowing that you’re asking patients to choose between medication and treatment, or paying for their other needs. As a physician, I am tired of this heartbreak.”
“My employees want health insurance but cannot afford it,” said Cassandra Brooks, a small business owner who runs a child care center in North Carolina. “In 2019, I lost a faithful employee and teacher, Ms. Brenda Purnell. She couldn’t afford insurance, and she was in the coverage gap. She knew she had high blood pressure and was using home remedies because she simply couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. How many more have to die from an easily preventable condition before we make a change?”
“Hospitals that don’t get paid can’t stay open. Because they can’t stay open, tragedies happen,” said Christina Taliaferro, CEO of a community non-profit in East Texas. In recent years, a local family lost their baby to choking because they showed up to their hospital only to find out it had closed a few days earlier. “Our region has 37 counties. One-third of them do not have hospitals. For many, the nearest hospital is one or two hours away.”
“We will be judged by how we treat the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Ronnie Crudup Sr. from New Horizon International Church in Mississippi. “It is a moral imperative that we act now.”
Despite tremendous federal incentives offered in the American Rescue Plan and broad support from voters, state leaders continue to block Medicaid expansion.
Speakers used this critical window to urge Congressional leaders to take immediate action. Failure is not an option. Without a federal fix, 2 million Americans could be left waiting another decade or more for basic, life-saving care.
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