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The Henderson County Chapter of the NAACP rebuked state Sen. Tom Apodaca and other Republican leaders in the Legislature for their effort to block state participation in the Affordable Care Act.
About 100 members of Henderson County's chapter of the NAACP, the Democratic Party and others turned out for what it called an emergency meeting at St. Paul AME Zion Church to oppose the bill filed last week by the Hendersonville Republican and other Senate leaders.
The bill exempts the state from establishing a state-run health insurance exchange or a federal-state partnership exchange, blocks expansion of the state's Medicaid program and orders the state Department of Insurance to return the unspent portion of a $74 million grant the state received to create a federal-state partnership exchange.
"We just have elected not to participate as a state, and our caucus is behind this," Apodaca told North Carolina Health News. "We don't feel like we should bind the people of North Carolina to the ACA, and so we are opting out of it, and if the feds want to do it, let them."
NAACP members and supporters expressed their agreement as Melinda Lowrance, president of the Henderson County chapter, lambasted the Legislature for trying to balance the budget on "the backs of the poor and the unemployed."
"We are very disappointed in our state leaders," Lowrance said. "Sen. Apodaca's backing of this refusal to expand Medicaid benefits is an embarrassment to the people of this county."
The Senate bill, she said, rejects $15 billion in 10 years for NC hospitals, which would be 100 percent paid for by the federal government for the first three years and 90 percent after that. Money from the Affordable Care Act would offset the costs of emergency room visits by those without insurance.
"Why deny those in need the help they need?" Lowrance said. "No one is looking for a handout. People need real help."
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) directs each state to offer a health-care exchange in which individuals and small businesses can purchase health-care coverage. "States may opt for a federally run exchange, a state-run exchange or a federal-state partnership, whereby federal planners create and run the exchange but states run the consumer support portion of the program," the North Carolina Health News website said.
NAACP members and others who oppose the GOP approach say the Affordable Care Act has already channeled important grant money to Blue Ridge Community Health Services and has the potential to help uninsured people in Henderson County — about one in five of the county's population.
In a statement released after the Senate tentatively approved his bill, Apodaca stood by the premise that a state approach is too costly.
“We are not running a state exchange because, to be honest, there’s no such thing," he said. "A state exchange gives no state control but would cost the people of North Carolina $100 million a year. The federal government chose to mandate health exchanges, so it should pay for them.”
“And Obamacare’s changes to Medicaid would cost North Carolinians close to a billion dollars through 2019. The federal government is trying to bait us in with ‘free’ federal money that switches to state money after a few years, leaving our taxpayers holding the bag. We are working to protect the economic health of our state.”
The local NAACP chapter also challenged the photo ID law proposed by the legislature, charging that the law would effectively disenfranchise more then 600,000 North Carolinians. Vetoed last year by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, a voter ID bill is expected to have clear sailing in the General Assembly this year under Gov. Pat McCrory.
"A photo ID requirement would place a heavier burden on African-American, female, elderly and young voters in North Carolina," Lowrance said. "A bipartisan agreement made years ago, which included signature attestation with a 5 year felony as a punishment for forgery is working well."
The group has requested a meeting with Apodaca to discuss the issues.