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NC Senate advances a bipartisan bill to allow some parents seeking drug treatment to keep Medicaid coverage

The state Senate is advancing a bill that aims to allow parents who are on Medicaid and temporarily lose custody of their children to stay on the government insurance plan so they can more easily get drug or mental health treatment.

Senate Bill 93 would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to ask the federal government for permission to keep these parents in the Medicaid program.

Sen. Danny Britt, a Lumberton Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said staying on Medicaid would make it easier for parents to obtain court-ordered substance abuse or mental health treatment while their children are in foster care. Losing Medicaid causes months-long delays while parents search for other ways to pay for treatment, he said.

“We all know the statutory goal is reunification,” he said.

The bill has bipartisan support and the Senate Health Care Committee gave it unanimous approval Wednesday.

“I applaud your effort in trying to get this done,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat.

It is not clear how many adults would be able to keep their insurance coverage under the bill.

Britt said the change would cost the state $5 million. North Carolina Medicaid is a $16.7 billion health insurance program that enrolls about 2.5 million people – mostly low-income children, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. The federal government pays most of the costs.

Parents qualify for Medicaid if their family income is 41% below the federal poverty level, or $8,905 a year for a family of three.

Most adults under age 65 who do not have disabilities or dependent children do not qualify for Medicaid.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and DHHS secretary Mandy Cohen want the state to expand Medicaid, which would make more low-income adults eligible for the health insurance program. Republican legislative leaders oppose Medicaid expansion.

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