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It certainly took us long enough.

It would eat up our entire word count to explore the reasons why the North Carolina legislature fought so hard against expanding Medicaid to its more vulnerable residents. Suffice to say that most of them stemmed from a distaste for former President Barack Obama, whose signature Affordable Care Act became law the same year that Republicans took over our state government.

But finally, as of Dec. 1, NC becomes the 40th state to adopt this measure.

The ACA improved healthcare for all Americans in ways large and small. But its most important provision allowed for individuals and families living below 138 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for free government healthcare.

In NC, that means individuals aged 19-64 making less than $20k per year — or families of four pulling in less than $41k — can finally qualify for free annual doctor visits, dentistry, emergency care, mental healthcare and preventative care. This affects about 1.3 million North Carolinians.

Which begs the question: What were they doing before?

Short answer: They were suffering and sometimes dying because they could not access the treatment they needed.

So while there’s cause to celebrate, there’s a fair share of shame that must be dropped at the feet of NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, who used their positions of power to thwart Medicaid expansion for more than 10 years. And when they finally allowed for it — largely because the America Rescue Plan Act allowed for $1.63 billion in incentives for the state — they tucked it into a budget that erodes the public school system, exempts state legislators form public-records laws, creates a secret police force and awards $17.5 million to fake pregnancy clinics, among other atrocities.

This is not a fair trade. But for those who finally have access to some healthcare, it’s welcome nonetheless.

Still, we must ask why — when not just millions if not billions of dollars but also the health of more than 10 percent of our state’s population is on the line — it took so long to make this a reality.

We don’t expect an answer.

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