On Friday, Governor Roy Cooper and healthcare advocates came together to celebrate the official start of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. This significant milestone was achieved through state legislation and is expected to provide government health insurance to approximately 600,000 low-income adults. The celebration took place at a Goodwill location in Charlotte, which also hosted a Medicaid enrollment event.
During the event, Governor Cooper expressed his relief and satisfaction, calling it the end of a long and challenging journey for the state to accept the Medicaid coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act.
North Carolina has now become the 40th state, along with the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid since its implementation in 2014. Governor Cooper has been a strong advocate for expansion since taking office in 2017.
Medicaid expansion offers affordable healthcare options for individuals aged 19 to 64 who earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but not enough to benefit from public subsidies for private health insurance.
As part of the expansion, around 300,000 individuals who were previously receiving family planning benefits and now qualify for full Medicaid coverage were automatically enrolled on Friday.
Over time, enrollment is expected to grow as social service agencies actively engage with residents. Additional enrollment events will also be held across the state in the coming days.
One of the newly enrolled individuals, Penelope Wingard, shared her personal story of struggling to receive care and accumulating significant debt when she lost her health insurance while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
She expressed her gratitude and happiness, describing her tears during the event as tears of joy. Carolyn Allison, the CEO of the Charlotte Community Health Clinic, revealed that approximately half of the clinic’s uninsured visitors will now be eligible for Medicaid.
Previously, Republicans who have held control over the General Assembly since 2011 were hesitant to accept expansion through the federal government, which provides 90% coverage of the medical costs.
However, their stance changed as they became interested in a $1.8 billion bonus promised to the state by Washington if North Carolina agreed to expansion. The state’s hospitals have agreed to cover the remaining 10% share, and expansion is expected to contribute to the financial stability of rural hospitals and local economies.
In March, expansion legislation received bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Cooper. In early October, the state budget was enacted, paving the way for the governor’s administration to formally accept expansion from federal regulators.
President Joe Biden commended Governor Cooper and the bipartisan support, stating that every American deserves affordable, high-quality healthcare. He added that this achievement brings North Carolina one step closer to fulfilling that promise for its 600,000 residents who can now access the coverage they need through Medicaid.