Commentary

The case for Medicaid expansion just keeps getting stronger

Medicaid expansionState Medicaid reform could be an opportunity for expansion
By Liz Millar, Medicaid Expansion Project Coordinator at the N.C. Council of Churches

(Cross-posted from the N.C. Council of Churches blog.)

Several public hearings have been planned around the state over the next few months to receive public input on the new plan for Medicaid reform. The plan would move Medicaid, the state program that serves about 1.9 million North Carolina residents, from a fee-for-service format toward a managed-care format.

Under this change, Medicaid recipients can enroll in what the plan’s authors have called “a prepaid health plan” where a flat fee would cover all medical services for most recipients. Senate Republican leaders say they feel the plan for reform will provide better budget predictability by capping the amount spent per person per year.

Projections regarding the success of the reform plan are mixed. Medicaid reform has already been approved in the state and became law in September 2015. However, the details of the plan must be approved by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services before it can be implemented. While the state legislature is on track to present the reform plan by June 1, the federal approval could take years, especially as individual state plans for reform have not been a priority for the current administration.

What has been a priority, however, is Medicaid expansion. As our legislature still has not moved on accepting millions of dollars in federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage, an opportunity presents itself to combine the state plan for reform with one for expansion.

A plan for reform with expansion in NC has the potential to take priority at the federal level and fast track the plan’s approval. And while the benefits and costs of reform are still under scrutiny, the benefits of expansion, which include expanded health care coverage, economic stimulus, tax revenues, and job growth, are clear.

Medicaid expansion supporters around the state are mobilizing to attend the public hearings and let our voices be heard. This is a crucial opportunity to move on closing the health care coverage gap and urge our legislature to accept federal funding to do so.

The NC Health Access Coalition is working to circulate talking points for supporters of expansion who would like to attend the hearing. We are in need of point people at each of the twelve hearings. Please contact Liz Millar at liz@ncchurches.org for more information or if you’d like to serve as a point person or attend a hearing in support of expansion.

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