A fiscally sound, common-sense solution

Published 10:13 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

By Dr. Greg Murphy

As another season of football comes to a conclusion with “the Big Game,” the new game in town at the State Capital is a form of political poker, and at stake is health insurance coverage for some of our state’s hardest working citizens. After watching non-stop spin in this week’s news cycle, I had to take a moment to lay the cards on the table for those who believe it’s time to stop playing games.

As a state representative and the only physician in the legislature, I have pushed forward a common sense, fiscally conservative way to provide health insurance for well over 300,000 hard-working North Carolinians who currently have no coverage. These are farmers, fishermen, small business owners, even members of our clergy. They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid; however, they don’t have enough left at the end of the month to pay for health insurance on the open market. They are in a dangerous gap that leaves them with an uncertain future, both medically and financially.

In 2017, I was proud to Sponsor House Bill 662, also known as Carolina Cares. It is important to stress that, contrary to what has been reported in various media outlets, this is not an expansion of the fiscally uncertain federal Medicaid program. Carolina Cares is a conservative and fiscally responsible alternative to Medicaid expansion that would not add a single person to the already 2 million North Carolinians on the Medicaid rolls. It is an entirely different insurance product.

Each year, North Carolina sends upwards of $800 million to Washington, D.C., to fund Medicaid expansion in other states. The federal government uses your hard-earned tax dollars to fund health care in other states. Those dollars do not come back to North Carolina. Carolina Cares would provide a health insurance product created and managed right here at home, one whose elements closely resemble private insurance or North Carolina’s State Health Plan. In Carolina Cares, those tax dollars return home.

Residents who qualify for this program have often purchased private health insurance in the past. They are not looking for a government handout. Instead, these workers, who make up the backbone of our state’s economy, are in search of an affordable alternative to skyrocketing insurance premiums. There are low and affordable income-based premiums required under Carolina Cares. There is an ongoing work requirement, but there are exemptions from this, including for individuals caring for a dependent minor or disabled child. These elements of Carolina Cares give it the important partnership of affordability and accountability that so many government programs lack.

Unfortunately, it is the extreme political left’s pushback to Carolina Cares Personal Responsibility requirements that are the stumbling block to getting these folks the health insurance they seek. The individuals who are aided by legislation welcomed an active buy-in to their health care. Yet those who champion big government bureaucracy are willing to use health care as a bargaining chip in order to bring more individuals under the federal government’s ever-expanding umbrella. They wish to create more governmental dependency rather than promoting self-reliance. The left would rather these residents go without health insurance and continue their hardships than have them pay just a small portion of the costs themselves.

It’s time to stop the game playing and lay our cards out on the table for all to see.

Those who continue to put political games ahead of our state’s residents should come clean, stop the false rhetoric and show they actually care about affordable and dependable health care. The card they lay on the table is a credit card, with the inevitable crushing debt that comes with big government inefficiency being placed square on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

Those of us who refuse to support Medicaid expansion have put forward this fiscally sound, common-sense solution that provides excellent health insurance coverage for those who are willing to accept a perfectly reasonable amount of personal responsibility. In return, the card they receive provides them with the peace of mind their families so desperately need, a health insurance card.

Dr. Greg Murphy serves as Pitt County’s N.C. House District 9 representative.