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NC Medicaid Expansion Could Insure Thousands

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PHOTO: Head shot of Adam Searing courtesy of The White House.
PHOTO: Head shot of Adam Searing courtesy of The White House.
August 22, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - More than 500,000 more North Carolina residents would have access to health insurance if Medicaid is expanded through the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report from the North Budget and Tax Center.

The expansion makes some lower-income working adults eligible for Medicaid who did not have access to health insurance - but only if state lawmakers take action.

Raleigh resident Ann Young knows firsthand the difference Medicaid can make. An emergency two years ago prompted a four-day hospital stay, racking up more than $100,000 in medical bills for Young.

"The MRIs and the CAT scans, they are high. If I had not had Medicare, I couldn't afford it and I'd probably go into bankruptcy."

The report predicts that more than 95 percent of new Medicaid enrollees under the expansion are uninsured. With the expansion, it says, by 2014 the number of uninsured people in North Carolina would be less than 500,000 - less than half what it is today.

In order to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion, the State Assembly will have to agree to spending 2 percent more than is typically budgeted for Medicaid. Adam Searing, who worked on the report, says that from his perspective, it would be wrong to deny health coverage to thousands of people in need.

"It is immoral, I think - because people who are really down on their luck and lose everything, why should they lose their health, too?"

The report predicts that adding people to the Medicaid rolls would save the state from $1 billion to $2 billion by 2019. It says expanding the program also means doctors, hospitals and insurance companies won't have to cover as much uncompensated care as they do now for the uninsured.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC