RALIEGH, NC – October 3, 2022 – During the recent North Carolina General Assembly short session that ended on July 1st, there are 2 bills favoring expanding Medicaid, one in each chamber. Passage of either bill or negotiation of a compromise bill would be the culmination of a long-drawn out process that began about a decade ago. North Carolina is one of twelve states that have refused to expand Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act was signed into federal law in 2010 and the Supreme Court ruled that each state has the right to decide in 2012. The Affordable Care Act lowered the threshold income level of who was eligible for Medicaid health insurance so that more low-income Americans could access health care. The federal government has incentivized non expansion states to expand Medicaid eligibility by increasing the federal subsidies for the cost of newly eligible people to 90% and up to 95% for the first 2 years of expansion.
The Senate version of the bill was championed by Republican Phil Berger, the highest-ranking officer of the State Senate. In addition to featuring expanding Medicaid as the centerpiece of this bill, the proposal included some other provisions. However, aside from expanding Medicaid, the provision that Senator Berger strongly feels that needs inclusion is reforming the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws by eliminating them. The CON laws allow the state government to oversee the distribution of healthcare equipment and services like the amount of hospital beds in a given location, ambulatory surgical centers and sophisticated imaging devices like MRIs and CT scans. Hospitals may feel economically threatened by competing new facilities and services in the region that they draw patients from. Rural hospitals usually have a greater negative economic impact. Many North Carolinians live in rural regions so having a rural hospital close because of economic hardship would be devastating. The state hospital association is against reforming the CON laws.
The version in the House of Representatives was introduced by Republican leader Tim Moore, the Speaker of the House, just days before the planned end of the short session. This bill is only focused on the feasibility of expanding Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid would result in more people with access to health care coverage:
- Approximately 600,000 North Carolinians, including
- Almost 17,000 people in Buncombe County
- Between 3-4,000 people in Haywood County
- Almost 7,000 people in Henderson County, and
- Between 1-2,000 people in Macon County
Other advantages of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina include:
- Significantly stimulating the economy by creating jobs, growing business activity and bringing in more revenue for each county
- Saving a lot of money because of the federal incentive funding, estimated at between 1-2 billion dollars in the first 2 years
- Keeping more people healthy. Some examples are earlier cancer diagnosis, fewer cancer deaths, and better access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment. In the long haul, this will save much money too.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org