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A key to less financial stress? Medicaid expansion.

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North Carolina lawmakers returning to Raleigh on Tuesday are not expected to cast any decisive votes. But they will be greeted by advocates for Medicaid expansion, hoping to move lawmakers closer to a decision to finally close the coverage gap.

Tuesday’s vigil comes on the heels of new and promising research by Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine.

According to VCU, the first-of-its kind study analyzes the changes in subjective financial distress for a population of newly eligible Medicaid enrollees both before and then after enrollment.

Here’s more from VCU’s Olivia Trani:

“Since Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid in 2019, health insurance coverage has been extended to more than 500,000 adults,” said Hannah Shadowen, an M.D.-Ph.D. student within the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy and lead author of the new study. “Through this research, we are getting a closer look into how Medicaid expansion could be creating positive financial changes and improving equity for low-income families.”

The research team conducted a baseline survey of individuals newly eligible for Medicaid to understand their health care experience and financial situation in the year prior to enrolling. Follow-up surveys were then sent more than 18 months after enrollment. The team collected over 3,000 responses in total.

Using data from the surveys, the researchers examined how financial concerns about medical and nonmedical needs changed for beneficiaries one year after enrollment. This included worries related to paying for housing, food, monthly bills, credit card and loan payments and health care.

“Most studies that look into the financial implications of Medicaid expansion concentrate on health care affordability or catastrophic financial events like bankruptcy. In this research, we wanted to see whether enrolling in the program also impacts a person’s ability to pay household expenses like housing and food,” said Barnes, a co-author of the study.

The research team’s analysis showed that, after 12 months of Medicaid enrollment, enrollees were 33.7% less likely to be concerned about normal health care costs and 23.8% less likely to be concerned about catastrophic health care costs compared with the year before. The enrolled respondents also reported having less trouble paying medical bills and paying off medical debt over time.

Additionally, researchers found that enrolled individuals showed reduced concerns about general expenses not associated with health care. These findings were consistent with previous studies that have shown the positive impacts of Medicaid expansion on nonmedical costs.

Additionally, researchers found that enrolled individuals showed reduced concerns about general expenses not associated with health care. These findings were consistent with previous studies that have shown the positive impacts of Medicaid expansion on nonmedical costs.

Medicaid expansion would benefit more that 600, 000 uninsured North Carolinians and bring more than $1.5 billion in new federal funding to the state.

Read more about VCU’s research here. Tuesday’s vigil to pass Medicaid expansion will be held at 10:00 a.m. in front of the General Assembly (16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh) and will be live streamed here.

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A key to less financial stress? Medicaid expansion.