Policy Advocate Louisa Warren released a great report defending the NC Health Choice program that provides health insurance to children in families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase private insurance.
Louisa points out that our state gets generous federal funds for the program and that money helps fuel our local economies and serves as a critical social safety net in hard times.
I would add that for those watching federal health reform, NC Health Choice is critical. Any changes at the federal level are likely to include major infusions of money into our state. If Washington mandates, for example, that we cover all children up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level in Health Choice, and that we cover all adults up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level in Medicaid, the feds will likely fund those expansions for many years.
And the money will rightly come with conditions. It is almost certain that Washington will want North Carolina to get most of the children currently eligible for Health Choice signed up for the program. The state will have to oblige if we want the infusion of federal funds.
If state lawmakers cap the program now then enrollment will plummet. The number of children enrolled in Health Choice will continue to fall even when the program is reopened. That means that the General Assembly will set us back just when we need all of the money we can get.
If we cap enrollment in Health Choice now it is going to take years to undo the damage.