Gov. Cooper visits Vidant Health, talks about expanding Medicaid coverage

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — State lawmakers and local leaders came together Monday to talk about Governor Roy Cooper’s push to expand Medicaid coverage.

For months, the Medicaid expansion has been a major factor in the budget fight with the General Assembly.

Local health officials said getting more North Carolinian’s covered would do tremendous things for the state.

“It’s very clear that your zip code matters more than your genetic code,” said Dr. Mike Waldrum, CEO of Vidant Health.

For many, those zip codes don’t include doctor’s offices or hospitals.

That’s why Waldrum hosted Governor Cooper for a round table to discuss the implications of closing the Medicaid coverage gap.

“Working North Carolinians are falling in this gap. They want to keep working, they want to make money, but right now they’re making too much to qualify for medicaid, but there’s a cut off for the Affordable Care Act where they don’t qualify for federal subsidies,” said Governor Roy Cooper.

Expanding coverage could mean more health care jobs coming to the East.

“It’s a travesty when a maternity unit closes. Those mothers and babies have to come somewhere else and maybe to a hospital that’s already overcrowded,” said Waldrum.

Officials talked about the strain that’s been put on Vidant Health as smaller practices close their doors.

“We know it’s putting a lot of pressure on the system. They have so many people that they treat and they can’t pay them, and the uncompensated care costs all of us,” said Cooper.

Health officials also said the expansion would help people get preventive medical care, helping many to lead healthier lives.

Yet, the fight for expanded coverage is being met with push back.

“Health insurance is not a neccessity today because you can go to the emergency room and get care when you need it,” said Representative Chris Humphrey, a Republican from District 12.

Some legislators are suggesting additional changes should be made to the current expansion proposal.

It could include insurance premiums or work requirements.

“You got to have some skin in the game. If you don’t have skin in the game you’re not as apt to take care of yourself,” said Humphrey.

Local leaders have also been advocating for increased funding for the Brody School of Medicine, saying additional funds are also essential to expanding rural health care.

Dr. Perrin Jones, a Representative from District 9 said in a statement:

“Expanding the ECU Brody School of Medicine is crucial for that to occur. A new building will allow the medical class size to expand by 40 students per year. Most of those students will practice primary care and many will remain in ENC. These are the new doctors this area needs to care for our fellow citizens both now and in the future.”

At this point, health officials say it’s up to lawmakers to make a change to better rural areas across the state.

“Our expectation is that our elected officials will help us by understanding the issues and then helping craft solutions. We would hope they would come together to help us solve these problems,” said Waldrum.

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