Right now, Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina General Assembly are negotiating our state budget. So far, draft budgets have not included Medicare expansion.

As a community activist, I have witnessed horrific loss of life, wellness and income stability crippling poor communities during this pandemic. Over half a million North Carolinians – many of them essential workers like cashiers and home health aides – have been left unprotected during this pandemic without affordable health care.

Our state has $7.2 billion sitting untouched that is the people’s money and must be used to meet the dire needs in our most impacted neighbors. If it’s too much to ask state lawmakers to make moral decisions, I’d just ask them to look at the numbers.

The American Rescue Plan offers North Carolina a $1.7 billion deal to expand Medicaid. This is on top of the federal government already paying 90% of the cost, which means it would bring a surplus of money into the state to cover healthcare costs. More than that, it's the health policy voters want. Years of polling data show huge bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion among a wide majority of North Carolina voters.

A safe and healthy population is the bedrock of a successful and sustainable state.

We deserve a budget that invests in the people of this state. Our budget should be a reflection of our values. Looking at the budgets that have been released so far, I find myself asking: What is it that our elected officials value?

Samantha Turner, Charlotte

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