“This sort of thing can happen to anybody, but it should happen to nobody.”


This post was written by Mark Ortiz, a 2022 Down Home Fellow from Rowan County, North Carolina. 

In 2007, I got rammed by a hit-and-run motorist while cycling in Cabarrus County. I was riding between Harrisburg and Concord. I will never forget that location.

My injuries were severe. My recovery was lengthy. I had always carried my own health insurance, but at that time I had recently paid for a new insurance policy and was in the one-month coverage gap before I was going to be covered again. The resulting medical bills wiped out a nest egg I had been planning to use to build a live-in workshop. I couldn’t get rides from the county ADA vans to get to and from appointments; I was told
those were only for people on Medicaid. I found I couldn’t qualify for Medicaid despite being crippled and jobless, because I still had more than $2000 to my name.

Mark Ortiz of Rowan County

Slowly, I recovered. However, I was not considered eligible for insurance for years, because I now had a pre-existing condition.

This sort of thing can happen to anybody, but it should happen to nobody.

We can fix this so that it happens to 600,000 fewer people. After nine long years of waiting, the North Carolina Senate Republicans recently introduced and passed a healthcare bill that would include Medicaid expansion, passing through three committees and passing by a 44-2 vote on the Senate floor. Then, just last week, the
House introduced a different bill responding to Medicaid Expansion, asking for more time to deliberate and study how expanding Medicaid would work in NC.

The 600,000 North Carolinians living in the coverage gap, as I was, cannot wait for politics to play out over our lives. We have waited long enough. We need Medicaid expansion now.

Some say the health care infrastructure to serve more Medicaid patients doesn’t exist. But in reality, hospitals have been closing all over the state, especially in rural areas, partly because they are required to provide emergency services to uninsured people who can’t pay. Expanding Medicaid would provide the means for more patients to pay for care and, as a result, help to keep our health care facilities funded and open.

Apart from all of the health benefits, last year Congress offered a $1.5 billion incentive to North Carolina if we expand Medicaid. That money would recirculate through our entire economy, creating jobs and improving our communities. Our elected officials should not leave that money on the table.

The NCGA must pass a Medicaid expansion bill now that would give health coverage to Carolinians living in the insurance gap, strengthen rural hospitals, and, if they pass it this session, pull in $2 billion in federal funds to our state. It only makes sense.

I want to thank the NC Senators and House Representatives for signaling their support to pass a unique North Carolina healthcare solution for hardworking families. With so much at stake and so much to gain from closing our state’s coverage gap, North Carolina needs to support and pass Medicaid expansion and close our state’s coverage gap once and for all. It would have made a difference in my life and it still can make a
difference in so many other North Carolinians’ lives… if the General Assembly takes action now.

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