: Today, the Board of Trustees of Ashe Memorial Hospital presented Governor Roy Cooper with a resolution
encouraging the Governor and the General Assembly to expand Medicaid. Earlier in the day, Governor Cooper vetoed the budget
because of the many ways it is bad for North Carolinians, especially those who cannot afford health insurance and struggle to access health care.
"The single best thing we can do for our rural communities is to close the health insurance coverage gap. By expanding Medicaid, we can help 1,000 people in Ashe County alone access affordable health care. They and more than 600,000 people in our state deserve that, and I will continue to fight to close the coverage gap,"
said Gov. Cooper.
The hospital's resolution highlights the challenges rural hospitals face. It estimates that in FY 2018, Ashe Memorial Hospital provided $5.8 million in charity care, covering medical bills for those who could not pay for services. Across North Carolina, 40 percent of rural hospitals are operating in the red, and four have closed since 2014. Nationally, 82 percent of rural hospital closures since 2014 have been in states that did not close the coverage gap.
"The single best thing we can do for our community, our local economy and the health and well-being of our rural neighbors is to close the health insurance coverage gap. Those of us living in rural communities know this,"
Laura Lambeth, CEO, Ashe Memorial Hospital stated. "We see patients every day that with proper screening could prevent an acute health crisis. Thankfully, these patients had a hospital to turn to. That's getting harder to guarantee in some parts of our state, where 40 percent of rural hospitals are operating in the red and four have closed in just the last five years."
The resolution was part of a roundtable discussion with Gov. Cooper and hospital leaders discussing the state of rural health care and the need to expand access to affordable, quality health insurance. Governor Cooper was joined by Representative Ray Russell.
Twenty-nine percent of rural low-income North Carolinians are uninsured. At the same time rural communities have higher rates on average of preventable disease, alcohol and drug use, injury, teen births, and overall mortality than urban areas. In addition to providing access to affordable health care, it is estimated that expanding Medicaid would create more than 13,000 jobs in rural counties within five years and help rural hospitals remain financially viable.
Currently, a family of four with working parents must earn less than $9,000 to qualify for Medicaid. The same family's income would have to exceed $25,000 to qualify for a federal subsidy to purchase health insurance. That leaves many families who earn too much for Medicaid and too little for a subsidy in the insurance gap without health insurance. Since 2014, 37 states under bipartisan leadership, including the District of Columbia, have helped close the gap by expanding Medicaid so more people can get coverage.
- Contact: Ford Porter