Press release from the Western North Carolina AIDS Project, shared March 13:

ASHEVILLE — “A Critical Conversation on Affordable Care in North Carolina” will be held on the Insurance Exchange and the impact of not expanding Medicaid in North Carolina today at 6 p.m. in the Mountain View Room at the Sherrill Center at UNC Asheville. This event is free and open to the public.

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that prevents the establishment of a state-based Insurance Exchange and blocks Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. Medicaid expansion would otherwise increase health care access to 500,000 working poor, provide reimbursement to hospitals for uncompensated care and create an estimated 23,000 health care industry jobs.

Currently, people without access to affordable insurance end up in our hospital emergency rooms with acute conditions and untreated chronic conditions. Some of the costs of these services have been covered through a federal reimbursement program. Under the Affordable Care Act, those reimbursements are supposed come through an expanded Medicaid program. Without expansion, the health care system will be forced to shift the burden of cost to insured patients.

According to Shannon Dowler, chief medical officer of Blue Ridge Community Health Services and panelist: “Many of the patients that come to seek care with a safety net provider already have advanced stages of disease that could have
been prevented or at least ameliorated. Not only does their quality of life suffer, but their ability for future work is impaired. Unfortunately, many times patients die from preventable diseases because they did not have access to timely preventive care. The safety nets are overloaded with patients who fall in the category of the ‘working poor,’ who would have benefitted tremendously from Medicaid expansion.”

Medicaid expansion would provide health insurance coverage for those living at or below 138 percent of the poverty level. For an individual, that annual income is $15,856. According to data provided by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, 14.2 percent of households earn less than $14,999 in our Asheville metro region, which is comprised of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison Counties. That would mean many hard-working, low-wage earners in our community would be eligible for Medicaid, improving individual health outcomes and reducing costly emergency room visits.

What can we do now? How will the Insurance Exchange work? The presentation will provide an explanation of what we are losing by not expanding Medicaid, and information on opportunities with the Insurance Exchange. Panelists will include Shannon Dowler, chief medical officer, Blue Ridge Community Health Services; Jaclyn Kiger, attorney, Pisgah Legal Services; Allison Rice, senior attorney, Duke AIDS Legal Project; and Adam Searing, director, NC Justice Center’s
Health Access Coalition.

This event is brought to you by Western North Carolina AIDS Project and community partners: ABIPA, Children First/Communities in Schools, Just Economics, Pisgah Legal Services, Planned Parenthood of Asheville, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, WNC Community Health Services and WNC Health Advocates. For more information, please go to

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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