The News & Observer: Congress has a new way to push states to expand Medicaid. Will it work in NC?

The News & Observer: Congress has a new way to push states to expand Medicaid. Will it work in NC?

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue plan, approved on Saturday by the House, includes an incentive for states to expand Medicaid by providing additional federal funding for their entire Medicaid program, not just those eligible under expansion.

North Carolina is one of 12 states nationally that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010. For years, Gov. Roy Cooper has pushed for the healthcare coverage, yet Republicans in the NCGA have repeatedly voted against it

From the News & Observer:

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, a key member of Cooper’s administration, has often called for Medicaid expansion in the state.

Cohen said in April that 2 million North Carolinians are covered by Medicaid and that 1 million people in the state do not have health insurance.

“That’s the one thing our state could do right now to protect families and put our rural hospitals and providers on strong financial footing,” Cohen said of expanding Medicaid.

Since 2012, the state’s Senate Republicans have held off Medicaid expansion, preventing more than 500,000 North Carolinians from receiving care for chronic conditions and illnesses.

Medicaid expansion would have brought the state an estimated $40 billion in federal funds since 2014 and would have prevented hospital closures in rural parts of North Carolina that were heavily underfunded.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, North Carolina had one of the largest uninsured populations in the country with over 13 percent or 1.1 million people without health care coverage.

And while Republicans continue to refuse the expansion, a majority of North Carolinians support closing the state’s healthcare coverage gap, according to a statewide poll.

The decisions by Republicans to refuse to expand Medicaid coverage has resulted in a loss of coverage for millions and vital funding for hospitals during a national public health crisis. And with the latest COVID-19 relief package, lawmakers have a chance to provide healthcare coverage to those in our state that need it the most. 

Bottom Line: As the pandemic continues, our lawmakers must expand Medicaid in order to ensure that everyone in our state has access to quality, affordable care. We owe it to the millions of people who are braving the pandemic without it and to the next generation to expand Medicaid in our state.

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Alanna Joyner

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