Medicaid expansion back in spotlight in downtown Raleigh

Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Medicaid expansion back in spotlight in downtown Raleigh
A day of action at the General Assembly on Tuesday. Cancer survivors among the advocates putting pressure on state lawmakers to expand medicaid.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Advocates are preparing for a rally Tuesday in downtown Raleigh where they'll call on the State Senate to finally pass expanded Medicaid.

Some reports say that would decrease the number of uninsured North Carolinians by 600,000 people.

The House passed a bill last week.

"If my sister had been able to get preventative care, they would've caught that cancer in time: I'm 100% sure of that," said Adrienne Hayes-Singleton.

She lost her only sister, Sharon, to cancer more than five years ago.

Sharon owned a hair salon in the Wilmington area.

Adrienne said her sister made too much to qualify for Medicaid and private insurance was too expensive.

So the throbbing pain in her hip got ignored for too long.

"Her hip was hanging on by a thread so when they went to put a rod in her hip, they found a mass for cancer," Hayes-Singleton said. "By the time they found it, it was already at stage four."

If House Bill 76 passes the Senate and goes on to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk, it could mean coverage for hundreds of thousands of people like Sharon.

It would also make North Carolina the 40th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"There are 600,000 people in NC who would benefit from Medicaid expansion," said Lucy Dagneau, senior director for state and local campaigns at the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. "It's becoming more common sense that having access to healthcare is what you need."

Dagneau is helping organize Tuesday's rally where there will be cancer patients, survivors, and their families.

Until last Spring, Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, thought Medicaid expansion was wrong for the state but his mindset changed.

Last year the Senate passed a bill that failed in the house. This year, the House went first and passed something.

"You are literally holding people's lives in the palm of your hand, and all you have to do is say yes and preventative care, which is covered through Medicaid, covers a lot of things and help prevent illnesses and diseases if they're able to get something," Hayes-Singleton said.

On Tuesday, cancer survivors were among the advocates putting pressure on state lawmakers to expand Medicaid.

ABC11 spoke with one woman who survived two types of cancers, but could not get the proper screenings because she lost her health insurance for a year.

"Because of delaying screenings for a year, I was a stage three cancer and then breast cancer. It was very very odd because I don't have that in my family. So I just know the importance of screenings. There's so many people walking around, and i wonder now, does that person have health care?" said Donna Marie Woodson.

Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger thought Medicaid expansion was wrong for the state up until last spring.

He has since changed his mind.

A high ranking republican senator said today he hopes the bill will be passed by the end of March.