Pediatrician discusses impacts of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina

North Carolina is set to become the 40th state to implement Medicaid expansion.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 5:54 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - With Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement that he will let the state budget become law without his signature, North Carolina is set to become the 40th state to implement Medicaid expansion.

The expansion means access to Medicaid for North Carolina residents will be based solely on a person’s income, rather than income and other factors, including having children or having a disability.

Dr. David Hill, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, believes children will benefit if their parents have better access to health care.

“This is going to be tremendous,” Hill said. “Why? Not because we’re getting health care for more children, we’re getting health care for their parents. But, when parents are enrolled in Medicaid, they take better care of their children. There is actually data showing that there is less child neglect when parents have Medicaid, when they have health care.”

Hill says the state’s hospitals will also see the benefits of Medicaid expansion, especially in rural areas.

“Medicaid expansion is going to transform the ability of rural hospitals and safety net hospitals in North Carolina to provide care for patients,” he said. “For one thing, the care that they’re already providing for free, is now going to be reimbursed.”

Hill says the expansion will also help rural hospitals to recruit and retain staff.

Under the new law, more than half-a-million North Carolinians will no longer have to worry about affording the cost of care.

“We’re talking about patients getting medications that will keep them out of the hospital, keep them from getting sick,” said Hill. “Getting preventive care visits so that they can head off issues like cancer and heart disease and strokes and diabetes before they become critical.”

Hill says expanded access to health care leads to more opportunities for low-income families to get the help they need.

“It changes everything,” he said. “From a treatment standpoint, just knowing that my patient is not going to run out of medicine, is not worried that one visit to the hospital or the ER is going to bankrupt them, is not trying to decide if maybe they have to cut their pills in half or take them every three days.”

Cooper has directed the Department of Health and Human services to start the process for rolling out Medicaid expansion, but there is no set date when that will happen.