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Gov. Cooper visits Vidant for roundtable discussion on Medicaid expansion, rural health care

January 16, 2020 posted by Vidant Health News

Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, along with other leaders and elected officials from eastern North Carolina joined Vidant Health for a roundtable discussion on Monday.

The conversation centered on the challenges of rural health care and the need for Medicaid expansion. Vidant Health Chief Executive Officer Dr. Michael Waldrum made his case for expansion from both a health care and economic perspective.

Dr. Waldrum said the challenges of rural health care are evident in eastern North Carolina through the patients served by Vidant. Vidant’s mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina depends on access to care in underserved communities.

“We know that your zip code matters more than your genetic code,” Dr. Waldrum said during the discussion. “Frankly, this is a really hard health care market with people that have been underserved historically and that have a high burden of disease and a lot of poverty.”

There are currently more than one million people in North Carolina living without health insurance. This vulnerable population often times cannot afford preventative care, meaning they do not seek care until they are extremely ill, increasing the cost of care.

Cooper said access to health care in rural areas hits close to home for him as a native of Nashville, North Carolina, which is among the communities Vidant serves.

“Being from eastern North Carolina, I’m always wanting to stand up for eastern North Carolina,” Cooper said. “We need to make sure we invest in public education, we need to close this health care coverage gap and we need to get high speed internet access to all parts or rural North Carolina.”

According to the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University, expanding Medicaid for the state would result in more than $11 billion in additional federal funding from 2020-2022, with more than 600,000 North Carolinians becoming eligible for Medicaid coverage.

“It is imperative Medicaid expansion is a priority and becomes a reality in 2020,” Dr. Waldrum said. “Delivering health care in rural eastern North Carolina is already a challenge and expanding access to care is vital to the success of our mission. I appreciate the governor, the secretary and all of our community leaders being here today to discuss the importance of expansion for the East and the entire state.”


Kansas became the 38th state to approve Medicaid expansion Monday. Cooper noted the similarities between Kansas and North Carolina in both its government and its rural population. He said the blueprint laid by the previous states with Medicaid expansion will serve as a guide to North Carolina.

Cooper also said Medicaid expansion is not one-size-fits-all and what works for one state will not work for all states. He said he looks forward to finding a unique solution to fit the needs of North Carolina.

“We’ve seen a laboratory of the 37 states, with Kansas with a Republican legislator and a Democratic governor approving Medicaid expansion, now it’s 38 states,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen how it works for a number of years. We saw a 7 to 11 percent drop in insurance premiums of private companies with expansion in other states.”

Cooper said Medicaid expansion would lower health care costs for everyone and help keep rural hospitals open.

Funding for a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University was another important topic tackled during the roundtable. Brody Dean Mark Stacy joined Dr. Waldrum in the call for support for the medical school.

Dr. Waldrum noted that Brody School of Medicine is the highest-value medical school in the country by state investment as many doctors that graduate from Brody stay and practice in the state. To that point, Cooper said he has proposed a bond for public schools and hopes to provide a bond for university and community colleges which would include full funding for Brody School of Medicine.

Vidant continues to stand up for rural health care and is committed to advocating for policies improving access to care.

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Visit-854.jpgFrom left: Scott Shook, Vice Chairman, Greenville-Pitt County Chamber Board of Directors; Kate Teel, President & CEO, Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Shirley Carraway, Vice-Chairman, Vidant Health Board of Directors; Weyling White, Mayor, Ahoskie; Bryant Kittrell, Chairman, Vidant Health Board of Directors; Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Michael Waldrum, Chief Executive Officer, Vidant Health; Governor Roy Cooper; Representative Chris Humphery; Melvin McLawhorn, Chairman, Pitt County Commissioners; Dr. Mark Stacy, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, ECU; Vann Rogerson, Interim President & CEO NCEast Alliance; Michelle Brooks, Chief of Staff for the Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, ECU; Daniel Van Liere, Government Relations, Vidant Health.

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