After Losing Children to Opioid Use Disorder, Parents Urge Lawmakers to Expand Medicaid In North Carolina, half of all people who received emergency care for an opioid overdose were uninsured


In a roundtable discussion with Governor Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, parents shared the pain of losing children to the opioid epidemic and urged lawmakers to expand Medicaid to provide access to treatment. They were joined by North Carolinians in recovery who shared their stories.

“Every life matters. From my perspective, the expansion of Medicaid is a no brainer. People are dying at five a day. Why would we not take concrete steps to mitigate that? This disease does not discriminate based on age, gender, education, or income. We have to turn this around,” said Stephen Shelton. 

“Too many families and their loved ones are suffering from this devastating, yet treatable, disease,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “ We need to heed their call to use all tools available to combat the opioid epidemic, and that means it’s time for North Carolina to expand Medicaid and provide access to life-saving treatment.” 

In North Carolina half of all people who received emergency hospital care last year with an opioid overdose were uninsured. Medicaid covers a wide range of treatments for individuals with opioid use disorder, including inpatient/outpatient treatment, rehabilitation and medication assisted treatment. Individuals with opioid use disorder who have access to affordable health care through Medicaid are twice as likely as the uninsured to receive treatment. 

Expanding Medicaid is a proven strategy to fight the opioid epidemic. After Ohio closed its coverage gap, 75 percent of previously uninsured people with opioid use disorder experienced improved access to care. And in Dayton, which had one of the highest opioid death rates in the nation, opioid deaths declined by more than 50 percent.

“If we can help someone struggling with substance use disorder, we help the whole family. The moms that I talk to are struggling. They are worn out, stressed. Access to health care will be ray of hope for moms and dads. It will help the whole family,” said Becky Cannon.

Roundtable participants included Randy Abbott (Greensboro), Becky and Mike Cannon (Wilson County), Debbie Dalton (Cornelius), Karen Kranbuehl (Raleigh), Andrew Long (Charlotte), Scott Luetgenau (Raleigh), and Stephen Shelton (Reidsville).

The roundtable was one of a series of events this week focused on the opioid epidemic in the state. On Tuesday, Governor Cooper highlighted the state’s progress in addressing the opioid epidemic and launched the updated Opioid Action Plan 2.0

Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina would provide an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians with access to affordable health care. It would boost North Carolina’s economy by $4 billion and create an estimated 40,000 jobs.

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.


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