GOP candidate doesn't think health care is a top priority for his state

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Dan Forest, a Republican running for governor in North Carolina, listed his four top priorities if he wins — and health care did not make the cut.

If Republican Dan Forest wins his campaign to be North Carolina's next governor, improving health care for state residents may not be high on the agenda.

When asked this week what his top priorities would be if his bid is successful, Forest named infrastructure, law and order, education, and innovation.

Not on the list? Health care.

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Forest was specifically asked in a Wednesday night interview with UNC-TV what "the first 100 days of a Forest administration [would] look like."

The first 100 days, he said, "[are] about crafting a vision ... and getting to work." That includes focusing on the "top five most important things."

When pushed to clarify what his five top priorities were, Forest responded with four, saying, "One's gonna be infrastructure," before adding that law and order were "absolutely critical to the state." Forest also said North Carolina should be "a leader in education," and that he wants to focus on innovation, including "intelligent transportation and things like flying transportation."

Forest did not name a fifth priority.

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The last time North Carolinians went to the polls in the 2018 midterm elections, health care was ranked the most important voter issue, according to a High Point University survey.

The survey found 75% of North Carolina voters said health care policy was "very important," followed by the economy (71%) and social security (69%).

Forest did discuss health care earlier in Wednesday's interview.

"We need to talk about comprehensive health care reform, transparency, making sure that everybody has really good health care, making sure it's low cost, that we’re driving down the cost in health care for all families," Forest said. "Make sure the poor are taken care of. We do that in America. We have a great safety net for people."

Forest is running for governor against incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

"It's no surprise that Dan Forest doesn't think health care should be a priority," Liz Doherty, communications director for Cooper's campaign, said Thursday in an email. "He opposes expanding Medicaid and supports allowing health insurance companies to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. Dan Forest would be a disaster for North Carolina families."

Forest does oppose expanding Medicaid for low-income Americans as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, expanding Medicaid in North Carolina could provide health insurance to 357,000 residents. By contrast, a 2019 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found 15,600 adults died prematurely because states opted not to expand Medicaid.

North Carolina is one of only 15 states that has refused to expand Medicaid. Since 2010, seven rural hospitals in the state have shut down, an outcome researchers have linked to the lack of Medicaid expansion.

Forest's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.