Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. State officials in NC say North Carolinians have much at stake if the US Supreme Court with Barrett overturns the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool) Amy Coney Barrett
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. State officials in NC say North Carolinians have much at stake if the US Supreme Court with Barrett overturns the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

A panel of lawmakers, candidates, and state officials urged voters to oppose candidates who want to end the federal healthcare law without a replacement. 

Health care is on the ballot this November. That’s the key takeaway from a virtual discussion Monday by top Democrats such as NC Attorney General Josh Stein, US Congressman G.K. Butterfield and US Senate candidate Cal Cunningham. 

Protect Our Care “Your Health, Your Vote” virtual discussion held on Oct. 19. 

“If we want to keep our families safe and healthy, we have to think about this election as our one and only opportunity to course-correct for the people in our state,” said Cunningham during “Your Health, Your Vote” event. It was organized by the national healthcare advocacy group Protect Our Care.

The state officials were also joined by US House candidate Pat Timmons-Goodson and state treasurer candidate Ronnie Chatterji, as well as Protect Our Care head Brad Woodhouse and Stacy Staggs, a representative for the national children’s healthcare advocacy organization Little Lobbyists. 

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They said attacks on the Affordable Care Act—including an ongoing lawsuit pegged to the individual mandate and set to be heard by the US Supreme Court a week after the election—figured prominently in the concerns raised by the panelists.

“What they’ve asked this court to do is strike down the Affordable Care Act,” said Stein, who is among a group of attorneys general fighting the litigation. “That means every single protection that law affords the people of North Carolina will be gone.”

Staggs is the mother of two children with pre-existing conditions who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett last week. She said the push to get Coney Barrett confirmed plays directly into the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“She is hostile to the Affordable Care Act, which means she is hostile to the lives of my kids,” Staggs said. “They picked her on purpose because of that. It’s all meant to undermine the Affordable Care Act, overturn it and leave this country in chaos.”

Staggs and other panelists pointed to the ongoing Republican efforts to repeal the federal healthcare law without offering a viable replacement for the legislation.

“When we talk about the Republicans’ efforts to repeal but not replace the Affordable Care Act, they’re talking about my kids, they’re talking about my family and saying we don’t matter, we’re too expensive,” Staggs said.

The panelists agreed that’s why it’s essential for Democrats to regain control of the Senate and strengthen their hold on the House. 

“A U.S. Senate that’s in Democratic hands, along with the House in Democratic hands, and a Biden presidency can fix what the Supreme Court might do,” said Stein. 

Along with protecting the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion—which could cover an additional 600,000 in this state—is another focus point for the election. North Carolina is one of only 12 states in the nation that have elected against expanding Medicaid benefits.

Chatterji, who served as a senior economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama, said that Medicaid expansion would not only make health care available to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, but it would also bolster the state’s economy.

“Strengthening the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid will expand jobs in this state,” said Chatterji. “The biggest employers west of Charlotte and east of Raleigh are health care systems. Every single study is showing the economic, health and moral benefit of expanding Medicaid.”

And with a pandemic threatening lives and livelihoods, the panelists agreed the issue of health care is more important than ever, and every vote could truly mean life or death for some of the most vulnerable North Carolinians.

“Health care is at the top of our minds as we deal with rising costs and the pandemic,” said Timmons-Goodson. “For me, it’s just unconscionable that we would have citizens who do not have health care. This nation is too prosperous, too rich, for all of its citizens to not have health care.”