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ACA Wins: Is Medicaid Expansion Next for North Carolina?

PHOTO: Now that the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold federal subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, health-care groups in North Carolina say it's time for state leaders to announce a plan to expand Medicaid access to 500,000 people in the state. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
PHOTO: Now that the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold federal subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, health-care groups in North Carolina say it's time for state leaders to announce a plan to expand Medicaid access to 500,000 people in the state. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/Morguefile.
June 26, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - Health-care groups say it's time for Gov. Pat McCrory to make good on his promise to release a plan to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

The governor delayed a decision pending the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of state health-care exchanges. With Thursday's favorable ruling, Adam Linker, co-director of the North Carolina Justice Center's Health Access Coalition, said state leaders now should extend the benefit of affordable health insurance to the 500,000 people left in the Medicaid gap.

"There are a lot of conservative states now that have expanded Medicaid to these people, and we should be doing the same," he said. "And now that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay, we should take advantage of that and get the money and jobs that come along with that."

The state Legislature would need to approve Medicaid expansion. The leaders of both the House and Senate have said they are opposed, and others claim it would be too costly. But Logan Smith, communications manager for Progress North Carolina Action, argued that it's a critical matter to address, pointing to research that shows that more than 1,000 North Carolinians will die every year without expansion.

"It's not just an arbitrary concept. It's not only just dollars and cents. It's real human lives," Smith said. "And so the longer Gov. McCrory waits, the more money we lose and the more people who die. This isn't just something that you can twiddle your thumbs on. He needs to act now."

It is the second time the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, and it means that more than 400,000 people in North Carolina will maintain tax credits that make health insurance more affordable. Linker said it also means it's time to build a solid health-care system and end the partisan divide.

"I'm hoping that these two Supreme Court decisions upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will mean we can move past that," he said. "There are certainly reforms that need to happen to it, but hopefully we can implement those and make the law better instead of just tearing it down."

After the ruling Thursday, McCrory said expansion needs more examination and there needs to be a balance between helping those who need coverage and keeping the system running for those who currently have insurance.

Research on Medicaid expansion is online at healthaffairs.org. The high court's decision is online at supremecourt.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NC