Local Chambers of Commerce Urge Lawmakers to Close Health Coverage Gap to Strengthen NC Workforce and Recruit New Jobs
In a roundtable discussion with Governor Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, business leaders made the economic case for closing the health care coverage gap in North Carolina. They shared how high uninsured rates for people in their communities was hampering entrepreneurship, innovation and business productivity.
“Companies looking to come here want to know that North Carolina has a healthy workforce that can help their businesses thrive. Closing the health coverage gap will make North Carolina more attractive for new industry and bring more than $4 billion into our state, creating thousands of jobs, reducing private health insurance costs and helping rural hospitals stay open. The business community knows that expansion helps the bottom line and I appreciate these leaders for making their voices heard,” said Governor Cooper.
People in states that have closed the coverage gap report it helps them work and get better jobs. In Michigan, 37% of survey respondents said Medicaid helped them get a better job. In Ohio, 83% of employed Medicaid expansion enrollees reported that Medicaid made it easier to work. And a recent study found that people with disabilities are working at higher rates in states that closed the coverage gap.
“You are not getting productive workers when they are worried about health bills or when they are not healthy. Large companies and small businesses are suffering from the impact,” said Vicki Lee Parker, Executive Director, North Carolina Business Council.
“A high uninsurance rate is impeding innovation and entrepreneurship. People who want to be entrepreneurs are reluctant to leave a job where they have insurance to start a business. We support expansion because it is the way to a healthier economy,” said John Chaffee, President and CEO, NC East Alliance Chambers.
Closing the healthcare coverage gap in North Carolina would help more than 500,000 people have access to affordable health insurance. Many are construction workers, retail employees, restaurant workers, and farmers – bedrock industries of the state’s economy.
Wednesday’s gathering was the sixth roundtable hosted by Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen on the health coverage gap. Rural hospital CEOs, child care directors and teachers, mental health providers, obstetricians and pediatricians, and families impacted by the opioid epidemic have all traveled to Raleigh from across North Carolina to urge lawmakers to close the health coverage gap.
Closing the health insurance coverage gap for families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid remains a top priority for Gov. Cooper. 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 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.
Participants included Lisa Pennington Brewer, Chair of the Board, Alamance Area Chamber of Commerce; John Chaffee, President and CEO, NC East Alliance Chambers; Valerie Flanagan Economic Development Director, Clay County; Tim Kies, President and CEO, Carteret County Chamber of Commerce; Vicki Lee Parker, Executive Director, North Carolina Business Council; and Carol Wolfenbarger, Board member, McDowell Chamber of Commerce.