COVID-19NC: Pause, Mandate, Patient Visits & Medicaid

Jun 27, 2020

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  Among the topics of discussion this week:  Governor Roy Cooper's Phase-2 pause and mask mandate, the latest from the General Assembly -  including a bill addressing hospital patient visitation during the pandemic and a Medicaid package, plus a look at challenges dentists are facing as they work to re-open

HC: So, Rose, last week, we talked about the governor hinting at a mask mandate and speculation about what phase three would look like. And the verdicts are in on both.

And the verdict is no phase three. Governor Cooper decided to let phase two extend for three more weeks. I think everyone's heard that by now, people were waiting with bated breath and he was kind of like, Hmm, no, not yet. And their big concern is the rate of positives.

HC: It really felt like the governor was revving up the troops when he made that mask mandate announcement,  because when it comes down to it, I guess compliance is sort of on the honor system.

It is essentially an honor system. The governor put the onus for enforcement, not on law enforcement, which I think in this moment where people are saying that law enforcement is involved in too much  Instead it's on the business owners. So, you know, if you have a hair cutting salon and someone comes in and they're refusing to wear a mask – the salon  owner can now call the police and say, this guy's trespassing. He won't wear a mask. So, it's on the business owner. But for the rest of us, most of the time -  it's kind of an honor system.

HC: Lots going on at the legislature this week and you have an article that  looks at how lawmakers are addressing a hot topic. And that's restrictions on visitors at hospitals during the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, hospitals said we don't want visitors. And then the governor gave them some executive power in this executive order to ban visitors. And then the federal government promulgated rules for nursing homes, not to have visitors. So there's all kinds of healthcare facilities that have stayed closed to visitors. However you know, and, and I talked to healthcare providers and they will say that the hardest thing is watching some of these patients die by themselves. It's been, it's been just heart wrenching. And so, there are now a lot of folks out there who are upset that they've not been able to see their loved ones.   So, it's  the no patient left alone bill. 

HC:  Lawmakers also tackled another big issue. Medicaid. You were up burning the midnight oil. Can you give us an update?

It was fascinating bill. I have seen so many Medicaid bills that have these big fat poison pills in them. This bill when it finally crossed the finish line had none of them. It was the cleanest Medicaid bill I've ever seen it. It refinanced Medicaid for the coming year  It had extra money for testing and tracing in it. It had money to upgrade the computer systems.  There were lots of compromises.   But in the end,  it(Medicaid expansion) ended up off the table. I think it's going to be a big disappointment to a lot of people.

About Rose Hoban: 

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992 but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health, policy, and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org