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After Years Of Republican Opposition, North Carolina Approves Medicaid Expansion

Source: The Hill

After years of North Carolina Governor Cooper and state Democrats advocating for an expansion of health care coverage, the General Assembly passed a bill expanding Medicaid in the state. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the long-awaited bill into law, expanding much-needed health care coverage to more than 600,000 North Carolinians.

“Hundreds of thousands of hard-working North Carolinians — many with two or more jobs — have suffered in the health care coverage gap while a solution sat just out of reach,” stated Gov. Cooper prior to signing the legislation. “With this law I’m about to sign, many of them will be close enough to grab it.”

North Carolina has been among 11 states who haven’t accepted expansion from the federal government. State Republicans’ years of opposing the crucial legislation have resulted in rural hospital closures, the state losing billions in federal funding, and an ever-growing coverage gap.

In 2021, 15.2% of state residents between the ages of 19 and 64 were uninsured, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation review of Census Bureau data. Currently, the state has 2.9 million enrollees in traditional Medicaid coverage.

“This landmark legislation will have lasting benefits for our state by helping hard-working North Carolina families, stabilizing rural health providers and improving the overall health of our communities,” Steve Lawler, President and Chief Executive Officer of North Carolina Healthcare Association, told The Hill.

For North Carolinians like Kylee Chapman, who hasn’t been able to find affordable health insurance since December, the news of the expansion brings relief. 

“I have a plethora of mental health illnesses and different chronic illnesses that I need to be able to see a doctor for,” Kylee told WFMY. “It would open doors for therapy for me, which I have not had since December. Different things that should be a right but aren’t.”

According to The News & Observer, some parts of the legislation are effective upon signing, however by design from state Republicans, much of Medicaid expansion is tied to the 2023 state budget passage, which won’t roll out until another few months. 

“I think what’s important about this is that we have agreed on how to expand Medicaid, and it’s only a question of when and not if,” stated Gov. Cooper. “And I think that’s where we are right now. We know that this is going to happen. It’s just a question of when, and the House in the Senate seem to be excited about going ahead and doing a budget early. So that’s good to hear. We’ll just see how that goes.”

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