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Poll finds support for Medicaid expansion

Poll finds support for Medicaid expansion

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A statewide poll released Wednesday by a 65-member healthcare coalition touted that about 75% of North Carolinians support closing the state's healthcare coverage gap.

Care4Carolina is among a number of advocacy groups that want to make Medicaid expansion one of the state's top political issues in an environment where there is little middle ground on the hot-button issue.

The coalition sponsored a survey of 612 N.C. registered voters that was conducted by Harper Polling and The Stewart Group on Aug. 26-27.

Medicaid currently covers 2.2 million North Carolinians.

The gap affects individuals who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage, but not enough to get help in the private insurance marketplace.

In North Carolina, between 450,000 and 650,000 people fall into that gap.

About half of those surveyed came from four state Senate districts, including District 31 represented by Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, and District 24 represented by Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance.

The survey found that 83% of individuals registered as Democrats, 76% registered as unaffiliated and 64% registered as Republicans support closing the gap. 

In District 31, 68% of survey respondents support closing the coverage gap, while 14% oppose. When asked specifically about expanding Medicaid, 69% supported and 26% opposed.

"Voters see dealing with COVID-19 as the most important election issue of the 2020 cycle, followed by a second tier of unemployment/jobs, education, and civil unrest and social justice issues," according to the report.

"A solid majority of respondents say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more concerned about the number of uninsured or under-insured North Carolinians."

North Carolina is one of just 12 states that have not expanded state Medicaid health coverage, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Cooper vetoed the Republican-sponsored fiscal 2019-21 state budget bill in large part because it lacked any form of Medicaid expansion and did not provide the level of public school teacher raises that he sought.

Key state Republican legislative leaders, foremost Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, have been adamant opponents of expansion since it surfaced in 2012 as an option through the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Analysts said the lack of a voter referendum option for North Carolina makes Medicaid expansion a pivotal issue in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races, as well as control of the General Assembly.

Republicans hold a 29-21 advantage in the Senate and 65-55 advantage in the House, but there have been at least four GOP retirements in the Senate and several in the House, including Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth.

Another recent statewide poll lists COVID-19 as being the most pivotal issue among registered N.C. voters.

A High Point University poll, released July 27, found that 422 survey respondents said coronavirus was the top major threat to the state and national economies.

About 76% of HPU Poll respondents said attending a sporting event (at 76%) was the riskiest activity to do during the pandemic, followed by dining in a restaurant (66%) and taking a vacation (61%).

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@rcraverWSJ

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