One week. That’s how long the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remained open for in-person classes before it was forced to shut down and move to virtual classes due to multiple coronavirus outbreaks on campus. The sudden change disrupted the lives of students, university staff, and Orange County residents alike. While Governor Cooper and other state leaders worked hard to inform our citizens of the necessary health protocols to stop the spread of the virus and provide the resources needed to keep us all safe, there is no serious partner at the White House dedicated to getting this crisis under control. And, as the number of cases in the state tops 155,000 and our businesses and education centers are forced to close, the President is actively trying to take healthcare away from hundreds of thousands of people in the state.
The President’s attacks on affordable healthcare are not only wrong, they are cruel. Even before this pandemic took the lives of 170,000 Americans and nearly 2,500 North Carolinians, the Trump Administration tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2017, after Senate Republicans failed in their attempt to repeal the law, the Administration and Republican Attorneys General tried to dismantle the law through the courts. And, this week, we learned that the Administration and its allies will be going back to the Supreme Court in November to argue for the total gutting of the law, a move that if successful, would strip more than half a million North Carolinians of their access to affordable healthcare during a deadly pandemic.
As a former health administrator and as a member of the General Assembly’s Health Committee and COVID-19 Select Committee, I understand the anxiety that comes from being sick or caring for a sick loved one without affordable healthcare; the despair of a spouse wondering how the family will pay for the cancer treatment of their husband or wife; the frustration of a parent with no money to buy the needed medicine for their child. Those experiences are a reality for many families right here in Orange county. I’ve worked my entire public life to end these realities and to transform our healthcare system from one that rewards wealth to one that supports health. And, so has Joe Biden.
This election season, we have the opportunity and the ability to chart a different path. We can elect a serious partner in the White House—someone committed to ending the pandemic. We can send a leader to the White House who will protect the ACA and ensure that every person in North Carolina has access to affordable healthcare.
Right now, more than one million people in North Carolina have no health insurance. Of these, as many as 634,000 are losing out on coverage because North Carolina is refusing to expand Medicaid. Joe Biden would work to expand access to healthcare and make sure more North Carolinians are covered. Under his leadership, we won’t have to live in fear that the Supreme Court will abolish the ACA or eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions. We won’t have to worry about losing our healthcare because of annual or lifetime coverage limits. Families living miles away from a hospital won’t have to worry about their community health center closing due to a lack of federal funding. And, young people won’t have to worry about losing coverage on their parent’s insurance before the age of 26.
A Joe Biden presidency will build on the ACA and offer North Carolinians more choice, a reduction in healthcare costs, and a system that is easier to access and navigate. The Biden Plan will eliminate “surprise billing,” a practice that occurs too often when a patient gets needed treatment and then receives an exorbitant bill because they didn’t know the provider was not in-network. The Biden Plan holds prescription drug companies accountable. It stops the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies by repealing the protection drug corporations have to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. It also limits price increases for brand, biotech, and generic drugs, and allows consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
This pandemic has revealed many inequities in our society. Our broken healthcare system is one of them.The President, instead of offering meaningful changes, has opted for hollow gimmicks. It’s time to get serious. North Carolinians are tired of living day by day with the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought. We are tired of seeing our own President try to snatch healthcare away from us during a health crisis.
When voting starts in a few short weeks, Orange County residents will have an opportunity to vote for Joe Biden, a President who will lead us out of this pandemic and transform our healthcare system so that everyone has access to the affordable care that we all need and deserve.
State Representative Verla Insko is a democrat from Orange County and a retired health program administrator.