NC Medicaid spending: 15% is the real story

NC GOPers and the think tanks that support them are often fond of bashing “out-of-control” Medicaid spending in NC.  The old “it’s eating the state budget alive” argument is hard to resist for some of the more gullible.  It’s “just under a quarter of state spending” and has grown “20 times faster” than the state education spending” trumpets the hyperbole in one recent account.

Those pesky facts actually matter here though.  Of NC’s $19.7 billion just-passed state budget, $3 billion is spent on Medicaid or about 15% of the budget.  In contrast, we spend about $11 billion or 56% of our state budget on K-12 education spending and our state colleges and universities.  Math this simple shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

And where exactly do we spend that 15% of our state budget that goes to Medicaid?   Children, people with disabilities and seniors account for 88.4% of NC’s Medicaid spending.  When you drastically reduce Medicaid spending, that’s who gets hurt.  Not some faceless poor person who gets Medicaid.  Children who need asthma medicine.  People with severe disabilities who private insurance companies would never insure in a million years.  Grandparents who worked their whole lives, but somehow can’t afford $60,000 a year in nursing home bills.

So, let’s get realistic about Medicaid spending in NC.  Sure we need to get health care costs under control.  And the new federal health care law has a whole range of ideas to do just that.  But we need to control those health costs for everyone, whether they buy private insurance or have Medicaid or Medicare.  A focus just on Medicaid – especially when not being honest about the facts – doesn’t serve anyone.

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