Remembering the victims of the NC GOP's refusal to expand Medicaid

Not just an academic exercise, people are dying:

North Carolina’s Medicaid coverage gap looks like Brenda Pernell, who went by “Miss Brenda” to her students and, until a heart condition killed her in April at the age of 52, treated her high blood pressure with vinegar.

It looks like Jessica Jordan, who inherited her father’s blue eyes and her mother’s fiery hair and who, lacking the coverage to pay for mental health and substance abuse treatment, died from an accidental overdose last May at the age of 32.

If these women had lived in Virginia (or even West Virginia), they would likely still be alive. If they had lived in Louisiana or Arkansas, they would have had a much better chance. Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, still alive. But they didn't. They had the misfortune of living in a state that placed partisan politics above the value of their lives, health, and prosperity. And there are thousands more right behind them, facing deteriorating physical and economic health:

It looks like Lynn Pierce, a single mother from Saxapahaw with Type I diabetes who worries that a trip to the emergency room would derail her mortgage and car payments.

It looks like white people and it looks like people of color. It looks young and it looks old.

It looks like Democrats and it looks like Republicans. No one is inoculated from all illness, even if some face those illnesses with the crushing anxiety of bills they can’t pay.

“When you’re facing that fear, no matter what side of the political spectrum you come from, that’s wrong,” Pierce told Democratic lawmakers from the state House and Senate in a legislative committee room Tuesday.

Another personal anecdote: Right after I left the Army back in 1989, I managed a discount furniture store North of Durham. We had in-store financing, but it was through 3-4 different finance companies. By the 3rd or 4th week, I came to realize that medical debt was the monster under the bed for the vast majority of the folks trying to stay above the poverty level. Four out of every five people who applied for financing in our store were rejected because hospitals had reported their uncollected debt as an "I-9" status. These folks couldn't even get a loan through a high-interest finance company, much less a legitimate bank.

One trip to the ER can do it. One trip to the ER can cause you to lose your car, your job, your house. We have the opportunity to ease that unfair burden for half a million North Carolinians, but we are being held back by prejudiced, greedy politicians.

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