RALEIGH (January 30, 2019) – Today, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced bills to expand Medicaid, which would give North Carolina working families access to the health care they need. As 36 other states and Washington, D.C. have already accepted billions of federal dollars on the table to cover their uninsured, working class residents, it’s time for North Carolina to close the coverage gap.

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians must forgo care for preventable and treatable illnesses or make the difficult decision of filling a prescription or paying a light bill because they are caught in the coverage gap.

“Dr. Eleanor Greene, an OB/GYN from High Point, called me in tears after seeing a patient with a particularly horrible case of cervical cancer,” said Rebecca Cerese, Health Engagement Coordinator for the NC Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project. “Cervical cancer is a preventable type of cancer and if her patient had insurance she would have been able to get tested early, and get an inexpensive treatment. Now her treatment will be extremely costly, and her prognosis is grim. This way of practicing medicine makes no sense.”

Expanding Medicaid bolsters the economic health of rural hospitals. Since 2013, North Carolina has seen five rural hospitals shutter their doors, and another eight are at high risk of financial distress.

“What kind of business wants to invest in a community where the nearest hospital is more than an hour away?” said Hyun Namkoong, Policy Advocate with the Health Advocacy Project. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, lawmakers will only further exacerbate the rural-urban divide in our state, leaving rural residents left out and left behind from both jobs and health care.”

The newly proposed SB3 and HB5 would completely close the coverage gap through a full, clean Medicaid expansion, generating the maximum economic and fiscal benefits of having more North Carolinians with health insurance coverage and access to care.

Alternative proposals that seek to add layers of expensive, administrative bureaucracy to coverage, such as costly premiums and reporting requirements will limit the potential gains to the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The experience of other states reveal the folly of such high stake measures. Since September, Arkansas has stripped health coverage from over 18,000 people for failing to fill out burdensome and bureaucratic monthly reporting requirements.

A clean expansion, as called for by SB3 and HB5, would extend coverage to more people, which is critical to keeping overall costs in the health care system low for everyone—even those with private insurance plans—and in building healthier communities across the state.