Medicaid expansion underway

Published 5:16 pm Friday, December 8, 2023

Medicaid has expanded in North Carolina, giving more than a half-million citizens the opportunity to take care of themselves medically.

The North Carolina General Assembly voted earlier this year to approve the expansion, which was favored by Governor Roy Cooper. The federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost, as stipulated under the Affordable Care Act.

The expansion took effect on Friday, Dec. 1.

Hertford County DSS Director Brenda Brown gave an update to the county commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday of this week.

“We did not see a significant number of people coming in last Friday, the first day of Medicaid expansion. However, we did experience a high volume of phone calls,” Brown noted.

She pointed out that the criteria to qualify for Medicaid expansion includes those ages 19 to 64 years and have an annual household income level of less than $20,120 (single adult), $27,214 (family of two), $34,307 (family of three), $41,400 (family of four), $48,493 (family of five), or $55,586 (family of six).

To date, Brown said 614 Hertford County citizens were immediately impacted by the expansion. She added that up to 2,000 citizens may qualify under the new guidelines.

In Northampton County, DSS Director Rhonda Taylor said they had 557 people who will move from Family Planning Medicaid to regular Medicaid under the expansion. Previously, those people may not have met the eligibility requirements for full Medicaid coverage, but could get assistance with reproductive health, contraceptives, and other family planning services.

Taylor also said they received enough funds from the state to hire two more workers to handle Medicaid expansion services.

Willie Smith, Gates County DSS Director, said they estimated a possible range of 250-450 new Medicaid cases with the expansion, but emphasized that they don’t know for sure yet how many of those people will qualify if they apply. But the expansion changed the income limits and ages for eligibility, which will bring many people out of a “gray area” where they needed assistance but didn’t previously meet qualifications.

Information on how Medicaid expansion is impacting Bertie County citizens was not made available despite repeated efforts to contact DSS officials there.

State health officials say that more than 600,000 North Carolinians are ultimately expected to qualify, with roughly half automatically enrolled as of Dec. 1. The expansion will allow those individuals to have annual medical checkups as well as obtaining prescription drugs and other services with little or no out-of-pocket expenses.