After years of fighting for Medicaid expansion, state Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper could breathe a sigh of relief after state Republicans finally joined in to pass the crucial health care coverage.
Not only was it a win for North Carolinians who needed health care coverage access, but it was a win for mental health and rural hospitals as well.
As national and statewide reports have seen a rise in youth suicides and a severe shortage of mental health care services, investments from the passage of Medicaid expansion are crucial and come at an important time.
For years, organizations and health professionals have advocated for investments towards mental health., Last year, The North Carolina Healthcare Association, which advocates on behalf of the state’s hospitals, called for state lawmakers to make investments for “expanded access to community-based behavioral health services, with an emphasis on early intervention and treatment”.
“Medicaid expansion will be transformative for access to health care in rural areas, for better mental health and for veterans, working adults and their families,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
“Expansion and Healthcare Access Stabilization Program will bring $8 billion annually to North Carolina with no additional cost to the state, along with $1.8 billion which can support behavioral health, public safety support, rural health care, and other needs.”
According to the NCDHHS, approximately 2 million of North Carolina’s more than 10 million residents will experience a mental illness and substance use disorder, but in 2019 more than 55% of people who needed it did not receive treatment due to costs.
In 2021, 27 percent of mental health patients discharged from a hospital emergency department in North Carolina were uninsured, according to the NC Healthcare Association.
The passage of Medicaid expansion would increase access to mental health and substance use treatment, as 27 counties currently don’t have a psychiatrist.
The passage would also include the following investments:
- $225 million would be allocated to improving access to behavioral health services
- $200 million to build a statewide behavioral health crisis system
- $50 million for telehealth programs and a centralized bed registry