While health care has been a major issue of concern on the national stage, there’s still a number of decisions that have been left up to the states when it comes to health care policy.
One of those decisions is whether the state will opt into expanding Medicaid coverage in 2014, and what to do about the state’s current policies toward mental health care.
Competing for N.C. House District 26, incumbent Republican Leo Daughtry and Democratic challenger Jenifer Bubenik have differing ideas on what needs to be done with health care policy in North Carolina.
Neither candidate is opposed to taking federal dollars to help cover the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but Daughtry expressed concern about what that bill will look like once the feds stop paying it.
“From my experience the growth of Medicaid has been exponential. We have seen the cost increase, and at some point in time the state can’t afford to pay the bill that we’ve been paying in the past,” Daughtry said. “I do think it’s gonna be important in the future to find a way to control the cost the state has to pay for Medicaid.”
Despite the cost of Medicaid, Daughtry said the last thing he wants to do is leave health care for the uninsured up to emergency room visits.
“One of the things that’s not working out is having medical care offered at the emergency room,” Daughtry said.
To avoid that, the state can pair patients with doctors who accept Medicaid, or help them visit county health departments through social services.
“There are models being prepared throughout the state for that kind of thing, to assign patients to doctors who will accept Medicaid patients,” Daughtry said.
Bubenik is also in favor of accepting federal dollars to help expand the Medicaid program in the state.
“It’s a difficult financial time right now, and our state cannot afford to leave free money on the table,” Bubenik said. “The cost of the program only represents 5 percent of our current budget. For that we could cover 32 percent more uninsured people, and that’s a great deal for our state.”
Bubenik has also set a priority to protect women’s health care rights.
In a law passed last year, women are now required to wait 24 hours and receive state-specified information and counseling before getting an abortion.
“A lot was done in the last General Assembly on women’s rights, and I do not think that men need to be making decisions in regard to women, in regard to birth control, in regard to health care or in regard to abortion,” Bubenik said.
However, Bubenik specified that she does not support taxpayer dollars paying for abortions.
As for the state’s mental health care policies, Daughtry said the state made mistakes in the past when it transferred care of the mentally ill from hospitals to community homes. He said the state needs to make sure that these homes are staffed appropriately and that funding is available to community hospitals for psychiatric patients.
“In our county we’ve been very fortunate to have the county commissioners we’ve had to create a way to help the mentally ill. We have 13 beds in our Johnston hospital and those beds are used for the mentally ill,” Daughtry said.
Bubenik supports enhancing community programs for the mentally ill, such as community homes and day programs.
“Those programs and services help stabilize and normalize consumers, and they prevent costly patient hospitalizations,” Bubenik said.