Thank you for lighting the way to Medicaid expansion

Hundreds of thousands of kids will have healthier parents because of you

By: Erica Palmer Smith | March 2023

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This morning, I sat in the gallery with advocates and members of NC Child’s staff and watched as Medicaid expansion passed the General Assembly. As soon as this year’s budget is enacted, it will become law, after more than a decade of advocacy.

It has been the second greatest privilege of my life to work with all of you to close North Carolina’s health insurance coverage gap. I say the second greatest, because my greatest privilege will always be being my daughter Alice’s mommy.

Since Alice was born, I have spent so many nights rocking her to sleep, filled with an overwhelming peace, only to have that peace interrupted by the memories of conversations and stories of too many other parents around our state. Parents who love their little ones with every bit of intensity that I love mine. Who work and sacrifice and fight to give them the life that all our little ones deserve. Who haven’t been able to give their children one of the most critical things that every child needs for a happy, healthy, and safe childhood – healthy parents to take care of them.

I have seen too many times how badly it hurts a child when their parent can’t get access to the care they need. When their breast cancer diagnosis came at stage 4 because they couldn’t afford the early screening. When they couldn’t afford the medication to treat their high blood pressure. When they couldn’t access the mental health treatment they needed for postpartum depression or opioid addiction from a post-surgical prescription. Our nation has lost over 16,000 lives, simply because we didn’t ensure that every person could access health insurance.

In all the tragedies, I’ve also seen the most incredible light. In January 2020, I was leading the Care4Carolina Coalition as we hosted a press conference outside the legislature. We had business leaders, a county commission chair, a sheriff. We talked about the incredible economic impact Medicaid expansion would have on our state. Those benefits are astronomical. But none of that was nearly as powerful as one woman who spoke at the end. Rachel had driven nearly two hours to be there. She stood in front of all those business and civic leaders and so many news cameras, and she made the most compelling case anyone could. Rachel is a mom to two wonderful autistic sons. Rachel also had medical needs, but she was going without the care that she desperately needed, because she fell in the coverage gap. So she decided to speak up, and she kept speaking up until we won Medicaid expansion in our state.

Today, there are more than 400,000 North Carolina children who have at least one uninsured parent. But all of that is about to change, because of all of you and the unwavering commitment that you have shown to our children and their families across the state. I am so proud to be at NC Child and to work with our advocates like Rachel. Together, we have done something amazing. Those 400,000 children will have healthier parents to take care of them. This is how we ensure that every child truly has the opportunity to thrive.

Now we begin the work of making sure all North Carolinians can access this life-transforming care. Please celebrate with me by making a gift to NC Child today.