RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new ad campaign launched this week aims to “apply pressure” as House Republicans consider a bill the Senate passed this month that would expand Medicaid coverage in North Carolina.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network will run ads over the next couple weeks on TV and online, as Republican leaders aim to wrap up the legislative session before the 4th of July holiday.
“This is a significant sign of progress, and that’s why we want to capture that momentum and we want to do everything we can to be the voice of cancer patients and those who need access to care,” said Lucy Dagneau, senior director of state and local campaigns for ACS CAN. “We are trying to apply pressure on members of the leadership who haven’t yet made a public statement on this issue because we know their voices carry weight with their colleagues.”
Leading Republicans in the Senate recently dropped their long-held opposition to Medicaid expansion, passing a bill that would provide health coverage to about 600,000 lower-income North Carolinians and making a variety of other changes they say are aimed at improving healthcare access.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who has advocated for expansion for years, has said he supports the bill.
The first ad specifically mentions House Majority Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), saying that he’s “standing in the way of Medicaid expansion.”
Jimmy Milstead, a spokesperson for Bell, wrote in an email that ACS CAN had not reached out to Bell before the ad began running, and that Bell contacted them upon learning about it.
“Leader Bell has been clear that he wants to find a bipartisan North Carolina solution that addresses our health care challenges and expands access to care, especially in our rural areas. It’s a shame a national organization wants to disrupt these negotiations and seek to divide lawmakers with a false and misleading ad,” wrote Milstead. “Whoever is advising them is giving bad advice. Leader Bell wants to ensure his colleagues in the House Republican Caucus have a voice in these conversations. They will not be bullied by outside D.C. interests into a heath care plan that is bad for North Carolina.”
The Republican leaders of the General Assembly are meeting to try to come to an agreement with each other on a budget proposal to take to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said he wants the healthcare access bill the Senate passed to be included as part of the budget. However, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said leaders agreed that Medicaid expansion would not be included in that.
“We have a great budget outside of that, and I think we can negotiate the budget irrespective of where we come down on Medicaid,” Moore said.
So far, the House has been unwilling to take up some other high-profile policy bills the Senate has passed during the short session including one legalizing medical marijuana and another dealing with parental rights in schools and how LGBTQ issues are taught.
“Not no, not yes, but not now,” Moore said.
Earlier this week, advocates with ACS CAN came to Raleigh to meet with lawmakers.
Adrienne Hayes-Singleton spoke about her sister Sharon, who was in the healthcare coverage gap when she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Adrienne believes her sister could have survived if she’d had coverage and been able to afford routine screenings.
“They would have put the connection together with her as well and they would have been on top of it,” said Hayes-Singleton, who also would benefit from Medicaid expansion. “My biggest concern is ending up like my sister. That’s my biggest concern because I have children as well. I have four children, and nobody wants to die.”