Healthcare and hubris

Posted 7/14/21

My wife and I were both raised in North Carolina. After more than a decade out of state, we were delighted to become Tar Heels again in 2018. Our home state stands out in our minds as the best place …

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Healthcare and hubris

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My wife and I were both raised in North Carolina. After more than a decade out of state, we were delighted to become Tar Heels again in 2018. Our home state stands out in our minds as the best place to live in the country.

However, I advocate for our state to become more like the majority of our nation on a critical issue. North Carolina is one of only 12 states that has declined expansion of Medicaid health insurance.

There is no legitimate fiscal argument to justify this inaction. In the past 12 years, Medicaid expansion has actually resulted in net savings for those other state budgets. States which have expanded coverage have also seen decreases in rural hospital closures and lower health insurance premiums. According to a study by the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University, Medicaid expansion would create 37,000 new jobs across the state!

No wonder a recent poll conducted by Care4Carolina — a non-partisan coalition dedicated to strengthening the economic and social well-being of all residents in the Tar Heel State — found that 77% of North Carolinians supported expanding Medicaid for all citizens earning at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. Supporters include Republicans and Democrats, social progressives and fiscal conservatives, rural and urban residents and people of different faiths and philosophies.

Why, then, did the N.C. Senate fail to include the expansion of coverage as part of this year’s proposed budget?

If there are neither fiscal nor rational arguments, then our elected officials must have based their decision on ideological concerns that are contrary to the common good of our state’s citizens. This failure of leadership is an old story.

Two thousand years ago, Herod Antipas ruled Galilee as a proxy leader for the Roman Empire. Though a minor figure, he had a major ego. He threw a birthday party for himself. All the bigwigs were there and Herod spared no expense to impress them.

His stepdaughter provided the main entertainment. She performed a dance so impressive that Herod offered her anything she wanted as reward — even half his kingdom!

But this young dancer was persuaded by her mother, Herodias, to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!

Herod did not want to put John to death. He both feared and admired this prophet. However, since he had made a public promise in front of fellow power figures, Herod felt like he had no choice but to order the execution (see Mark 6:14–29).

This gory, ancient tale might not seem relevant to our modern era when “having his head on a platter” is merely figurative language for punishment. Here’s the timeless takeaway: Herod would rather commit an evil act than appear weak or foolish in public. His pride prohibited him from doing the right thing. This is known as the sin of hubris.

The sad truth is that public health has gotten wrapped up in partisan politics. It is up to us to untangle the health of our neighbors from political hubris. I urge my fellow North Carolinians to contact N.C. House lawmakers before they submit their budget proposal later this summer. We must encourage and exhort them to support our state’s people and economy by expanding health benefits to more than 600,000 frontline workers, parents and veterans.

Our House members need to hear from us! I hope they will have the courage to do what is right. Otherwise, as was the case long ago, innocent people will suffer the consequences to the detriment of their health, even their lives.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”


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