RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Patients, physicians, and lawmakers gathered at the State Legislature on Wednesday calling for North Carolina to expand Medicaid coverage.
"I cannot help but conclude that many working poor, and I would note many working poor women across our state, have already died unnecessarily and prematurely. And many more face untold hardship," said Dr. Stephen Luking from Rockville.
Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., have expanded coverage; North Carolina is one of 14 states that have not done so.
Allan Jolly, who described himself as a former Republican, said he had only limited access to physical therapy following a series of medical issues for him and his family.
"I had a chance to get out, to get better. My doctors told me with physical therapy I had a good chance to get back to work and be a productive, taxpaying member of society. I had a chance to support my family. I'm stuck and will never get out," said Jolly, who uses a cane to help him walk.
"Every time you say somebody cannot have health care for whatever reason, you are denying a basic human right," said Leslie Boyd, whose son died of colon cancer in 2008. Boyd pointed to a birth defect and initial treatment as a root cause for his cancer, which she said was exacerbated by a lack of healthcare coverage. She explained his first disability check came nine days after he passed away at 33 years old.
While healthcare access options have changed since her son's death, Boyd is still advocating on behalf of those without access.
"We need everybody to have access to healthcare. Medicaid expansion is the first step in that, and we need to take that step. We need to stop allowing people to die," Boyd said.
Calls to expand Medicaid have met resistance from Republicans, including President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger, who recently wrote on his verified Facebook page, "Expanding Medicaid would add an estimated 500,000 able-bodied adults to North Carolina's Medicaid program, forcing current enrollees to compete with them for access to health care."
In a separate Facebook post just four days earlier, Berger posted a separate image listing six reasons why he opposed expanded Medicaid coverage.
Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at closing the Medicaid gap, hoping to gain momentum as they no longer face a Republican super-majority.
According to the State Department of Health and Human services, Medicaid or Health Choice may be available to people who are:
- Age 65 or older
- Blind or disabled
- Infants and children under the age of 21
- Low-income individuals and families
- In need of long-term care
- Receiving Medicare
You also must:
- Be a US citizen or provide proof of eligible immigration status (individuals only applying for emergency services are not required to provide documentation of immigration status)
- Live in North Carolina, and provide proof of residency
- Have a Social Security number or have applied for one
If you're interested in applying for Medicaid, click here.