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Why Medicaid expansion is a must

The NC Council of Churches [1] and NC Justice Center [2] will hold a special community meeting this evening on health care reform at the Martin Street Baptist Church. [3]

The meeting comes as North Carolina legislators face a major decision next year – whether to expand Medicaid coverage benefiting an additional 500,000 working-age adults in 2014. Specifically the expansion would provide access to quality, affordable health care to those who have annual incomes of less than $15,000 per year.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer, state legislators can vote to expand Medicaid coverage or reject it without any penalty.

Adam Linker, a policy analyst for the NC Justice Center’s Health Access Coalition [4], notes that rejecting expansion would mean turning down $20 billion in federal funds that would flow to the state over ten years to help cover the uninsured.

In an article for Policy & Progress, Linker goes on to explain how refusing to expand Medicaid would have a negative ripple effect:

‘It would mean imperiling the financial solvency of many rural hospitals that currently provide a lot of free care and are struggling; under Medicaid expansion, they would see a significant and much-needed increase in their numbers of insured patients.

And rejecting Medicaid expansion would mean allowing 2,840 people to die every year unnecessarily.

That last point comes from a recent Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors examined states that dramatically expanded Medicaid in recent years and those that did not. Researchers compared states with similar demographic profiles and ruled out reasons why people in one state might live longer than people in another state.

They found that expanding Medicaid by 500,000 enrollees is associated with 2,840 fewer deaths. Medicaid, the authors concluded, likely saves lives.

That makes sense. You can’t catch cancer early enough to treat it effectively if you can’t afford screenings, which are not provided free in the emergency room. To get them you need to visit a doctor and you will need to have insurance or cash. You also can’t get treatment for high blood pressure or diabetes if you don’t know you have the condition and you can’t afford the medication.

In North Carolina the Medicaid expansion would cover more than 500,000. So that’s 2,840 lives saved every year.’

To learn more, check out tonight’s meeting and join in the conversation about how the health care law is currently helping families.  The event begins at 6:30 p.m.  at the Martin Street Baptist Church at 1001 E. Martin Street in downtown Raleigh.