McCready, Bishop clash in 9th District race over state Medicaid expansion

Democrat Dan McCready this week released a seven-point plan for health care, which he sees as the most important issue in his campaign against Republican Dan Bishop.

McCready faces Bishop and two third-party candidates in the Sept. 10 special election for the 9th U.S. Congressional District. Earlier this year, the State Board of Elections refused to certify McCready’s 2018 opponent, Mark Harris, over concerns of election fraud.

An internal poll from McCready’s campaign found the candidates neck-in-neck, each at 46%, The Hill reported.

McCready’s plan — what he called a “common sense” agenda — reiterates his campaign promises to “take on Big Pharma” and work to expand Medicaid within the state.

Medicaid expansion

The expansion of Medicaid would be around 90% funded by the government, and McCready said that money is going to other states like California. A report from the Urban Institute at the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation estimated that North Carolina would pay around an additional $112 million annually, with the federal government backing several billion.

“That’s not a decision he gets to make,” Bishop said, and that the choice is up to the state legislature.

Bishop, who co-chairs the state Senate Health Care Committee, opposes expansion.

Bishop has stated his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act. McCready said that he would work to “fix” the act but that it was necessary to protect people with pre-existing conditions, another staple of his plan.

“What is the point of having health insurance if it doesn’t cover the medication to treat your disease?” McCready asked. Abby Pepper, a Type 1 diabetic who advocates on behalf of people with pre-existing conditions at Appalachian State University, introduced McCready at Monday’s event.

Bishop, who has not released a similar full health plan, said that McCready’s “so-called health care plan” was just “a series of bullet points.”

Primary care changes

One of McCready’s main reforms for the ACA includes exempting primary care visits from high-deductible plans, to “encourage more primary care and create a positive primary care relationship.”

He said that no patient should pay more than a $30 copay for services like routine family physicals or OB-GYN visits. Bishop said that this was an arbitrary number, again emphasizing free market competition.

McCready also supports shifting to a “value-based” system that requires people to pay for results, not itemized care — if a patient contracts an infection after a surgery, he should only pay for the procedure.

Bishop criticized the plan as too government-dominated, asking whether McCready wanted everyone’s health care to be similar to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the “problems it has faced.”

Both McCready and Bishop support reforming health care for veterans and protecting the Veterans Choice Act, which was passed in 2014 and revamped in 2017.

Voting record

On the campaign trail, McCready has targeted Bishop’s vote on the 2017 Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act, which passed the state Senate with only Bishop opposed. The bill allows pharmacists to discuss lower-cost alternatives to consumers’ prescriptions at the counter. Bishop has defended his vote by saying that he did not have time to fully peruse the bill prior to the vote as it was added to the agenda the same day.

On Tuesday, McCready bit back on the issue: “The bill is 546 words long. It’s shorter than ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’”

On Wednesday, Bishop accused McCready of playing “political games” and said that he voted for a similar bill shortly after.