The big change coming to NC healthcare that most people don’t know about

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The state is on the cusp of a huge change in healthcare, and most North Carolinians don’t know it’s happening, a new poll shows.

On July 1, North Carolina Medicaid will move from paying providers for each medical procedure to a managed care system, where insurance companies will be paid a set rate per person. About 1.6 million Medicaid beneficiaries  must be enrolled in one of the new health plans, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Republicans in the state legislature initiated the change more than five years ago as a way to save money. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration embraced it as a way to improve health for people who use the government insurance program that covers low-income children, some of their parents, disabled people, and elderly people.

A poll conducted for North Carolina for a Better Medicaid, a group promoting Medicaid managed care, found that 43% of Medicaid beneficiaries knew little or nothing about it. More than 60% of North Carolina residents overall knew little or nothing about the upcoming changes. Majorities had positive opinions after hearing of anticipated benefits, according to the survey sponsors.

The state Department of Health and Human Services tried to get the word out. According to an email from the agency, its paid media campaign included radio, TV ads, display, and social media ads. It used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to talk about open enrollment deadlines, health plan options, the NC Medicaid Managed Care enrollment app, and other topics.

Additionally, Medicaid beneficiaries received enrollment packages and reminder postcards.

Open enrollment, the period when Medicaid users were to choose a health plan, ran from March 15 to May 21. As of May 22, 212,687 Medicaid enrollees had selected a health plan, while more than 1.2 million were auto-enrolled, meaning they were assigned a health plan.  Beneficiaries have until Sept. 30 to change their health plan.

The online survey of 1,000 North Carolina residents was conducted between April 29 and May 4. The data were weighted by age, gender, race, and educational status. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Members of North Carolina for a Better Medicaid include Healthy Blue – the Blue Cross Blue Shield NC Medicaid plan – United Health Group, the YMCA, NC Child, the North Carolina Black Alliance, and other groups. United Healthcare is also offering a Medicaid health plan.

(This article was updated Wednesday, June 9, to correct the reference to United Health Group.)

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