Bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina passes in house, close to becoming law

Bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina passes in house, close to becoming law
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:19 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Wednesday to expand Medicaid eligibility for close to 600,000 people statewide.

House Bill 76 passed a second concurrence vote Wednesday, 95-21, with all dissenters being republicans. The bill will come up for one more vote in the house Thursday before going to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law. Once that happens, North Carolina will become the 40th state to expand Medicaid coverage.

“Medicaid expansion is based solely on income and there are not the other eligibility factors that go with some of the other Medicaid programs such as if you receive Medicaid, you have to be income eligible and, maybe, pregnant or, you know, income eligible and have another type of need. With Medicaid expansion, it will be solely based on income eligibility,” said New Hanover County Social Services Director Tonya Jackson.

Jackson expects the expansion would help more than 17,000 people in New Hanover County, adding that people will no longer have to ignore their health concerns to make ends meet.

“As we understood and saw very easily, there was a gap in medical coverage for our residents,” said Jackson. “And I mean, as research shows, individuals or families who do have Medicaid coverage, that frees up other money in the household for them to do other things with.”

Representative Deb Butler hopes the bill will also help struggling hospitals and patients in rural areas.

“It’s causing rural hospitals, in particular, to struggle to stay open, which means people aren’t getting the care they need outside urban metropolitan areas,” said Butler. “Hopefully, one of the consequences of this bill is that we’ll be able to save our rural hospitals and provide care to people across all parts of the state.”

She says a Medicaid expansion in North Carolina is long overdue.

“Can you imagine having a loved one that you couldn’t access health care for? You know, in civil society, we need to take care of people and we need to provide health care. It shouldn’t depend on your zip code. It shouldn’t depend on your income. Civil society takes care of its people,” said Butler.

If the bill becomes law, the state’s portion of Medicaid funding would have to be passed in the next budget before the law can take effect.