General Assembly should seize opportunity to expand access to coverage for those in the Medicaid coverage gap
Early this morning, the U.S. Senate defeated a last-minute bill designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make other harmful cuts to health care. Three Republican Senators—Sen. Susan Collins (ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Sen. John McCain—courageously broke from the otherwise party-line vote and defeated this dangerous bill. This is a major victory for consumers throughout North Carolina who can breathe a sigh of relief knowing now that their access to affordable, quality coverage is secure for now.
State lawmakers should now seize the opportunity to expand access to coverage for the hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians living the coverage gap. Not only would this make our state’s workforce healthier and more productive, it would help us fight the opioid crisis, expanding access to substance use disorder treatment and behavioral health services for those in need.
While Senators Burr and Tillis both voted for repeal bills that would have left between 15 and 32 million Americans uninsured, it is now time for them to move beyond the repeal conversation and work across the aisle to stabilize insurance markets, make small fixes to the ACA, and improve our health care system.
Following the vote, President Trump stated that he will “let Obamacare implode.” However, both data and statements from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina show that the ACA’s exchange markets are stabilizing, so it will take intentional sabotage efforts by the Trump administration to make this prediction a reality. As we’ve seen, the administration has already engaged in efforts to undermine the ACA and destabilize insurance markets. Hopefully with the latest change in legislative activity, the Trump administration will guarantee payments to insurers for cost-sharing reduction subsidies; we already know that the uncertainty of the status quo, in which Trump and Congress are holding those payments hostage, will cause Blue Cross premiums for North Carolinians next year to rise by 14 percentage points. The administration must also enforce the individual mandate and fully invest in outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to ensure that Americans are taking advantage of the benefits of affordable health insurance coverage.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT Brendan Riley, NC Justice Center HAP Policy Analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.861.2074.