Medicaid expansion is now the law in NC – and Republicans are to blame for the 10-year wait

Medicaid expansion is now the law in NC – and Republicans are to blame for the 10-year wait

The new Medicaid expansion law officially went into effect this morning, and 600,000+ North Carolinians will now be eligible for health coverage – 300,000 of them by the end of the day Friday. 

While today is a day to celebrate, we must recognize that this is happening despite Republicans, not thanks to them.

If Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson had their way, North Carolina would never expand Medicaid. Robinson wants to be the state’s next governor, but he not only opposes Medicaid expansion for 600,000 North Carolinians, he has publicly voiced his hope that it fails.

“I’m not in favor of Medicaid expansion,” he said, “I hope that it fails.”

Even after Medicaid expansion passed with bipartisan support earlier this year, Robinson said that he was “dismayed” and “not pleased” about its passage. He went on to say that he was “still not in favor of that” and he “[doesn’t] like that it’s here.”

This type of rhetoric is nothing new for Republicans. Robinson is just the latest in a line of Republicans who, for over a decade, worked to prevent North Carolinians from gaining access to Medicaid. In 2013, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory – with the unanimous support of legislative Republicans – signed a bill into law that rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion option.

Since then, Republicans have pulled out all the stops to keep Medicaid expansion from becoming law, even attempting a last-minute, unsuccessful bid to tie Medicaid expansion to an extremely unpopular casino push by Senate leader Phil Berger a few months ago.

Now that it’s law, Medicaid expansion will provide massive benefits to more than 600,000 North Carolinians – and in some cases, will save lives.

Expanding Medicaid will help keep doctors’ offices and hospitals in small towns and rural communities from closing – something that has been an unfortunately common occurrence in these areas since 2005. According to UNC-Chapel Hill’s NC Rural Health Research Program, since 2005, 104 rural hospitals have closed and 87 went through converted closures (meaning the facilities no longer provide in-patient care but still provide some services) –  with 148 of those happening since 2010.

In addition to insuring more North Carolinians and keeping rural hospitals open, North Carolina will receive more than $1.5 billion from the federal government to spend on health care needs across the state, including mental health care and training for doctors and nurses.

Click here for more information on Medicaid in North Carolina.

Patrick Zarcone

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