NC Medicaid expansion agreement could bolster rural hospitals

Published 4:41 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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By Nadia Ramlagan

NC News Service

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers recently reached a bipartisan agreement that paves the way for an additional 600,000 residents to gain access to health coverage through Medicaid. Advocates say Medicaid expansion will bolster the state’s long-struggling rural hospitals.

North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Executive Director, Da’Quan Marcell Love, explained the issues facing rural providers was a driving factor behind the agreement – which opens the door for the state’s hospitals to receive more money in the form of Medicaid reimbursement funds.

“Especially in the eastern part of the state and the western part of the state,” said Marcell Love. “Our rural hospitals are disappearing, services are being taken away. But Medicaid expansion is a lifeline.”

According to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, median operating margins among rural hospitals are lower in non-expansion states.

Experts say Medicaid expansion improves hospital finances by extending coverage to uninsured patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able pay their bills.

Marcell Love pointed out that expansion will benefit Black residents who have faced systemic barriers to accessing quality health care. Black North Carolinians are more likely to be uninsured than white North Carolinians, and suffer from higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Let’s be clear,” said Marcell Love. “This is money that the federal government has been spending for the past 10 years. And for the past 10 years, this money has been going to other states. And so now that federal money, our tax dollars, are staying in North Carolina.”

In expansion states, the federal government pays 90% of Medicaid recipients’ bills, with the state covering the rest. Additionally, North Carolina could see an extra almost $2 billion in federal money as a result of greenlighting expansion of the program.