On Monday, March 27, 2023, Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 76, Access to Healthcare Options, into law. The legislation will expand Medicaid, which is expected to provide health coverage to over 600,000 people across the state of North Carolina and improve health equity. A review of Census Bureau
data found that in 2021, some 15.2% of North Carolina residents between the ages of 19 and 64 lacked health insurance.
MS Activists in North Carolina advocated for closing the Medicaid coverage gap for ten years. Since 2020, nearly 300 MS Activists have made more than 630 connections with their elected officials ensuring that their voices were heard about the importance of Medicaid expansion. The National MS Society was a founding organization of Care 4 Carolina, which lead coalition efforts with healthcare advocacy organizations, faith communities, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations. According to Elizabeth Page, National MS Society Board of Trustee and Activism Advisory Committee member, “As an MS Activist, it was tremendous to hear Governor Cooper acknowledge the relentless efforts of advocates telling their stories for ten years. He said our voices got louder and louder!
The National MS Society supports closing the Medicaid coverage gap because when individuals have access to consistent and adequate coverage, they are more likely to seek treatment early, get the treatment they need, and avoid trips to emergency rooms or expensive stays in rehab facilities that end up costing the state much more. Since North Carolina’s decision on expansion, ten states remain with a Medicaid coverage gap, primarily in the South. “Medicaid expansion is a once-in-a-generation investment that will strengthen our mental health system, boost our rural hospitals, support working families and so much more
,” said Governor Cooper. “This is a historic step toward a healthier North Carolina that will bring people the opportunity of better health and a better life.
Before expansion, most adults without children or living with a disability were not eligible at all, no matter how low their income. When implemented, the program will be open to families and individuals whose incomes are lower than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s about $20,000 for an individual.
“This a historic moment that will transform the health and well-being of North Carolina
,” said Secretary of Health & Human Services, Kody H. Kinsley. “Medicaid expansion is foundational in improving access to health care in rural areas, for better mental health and for veterans, working adults and their families. For 600,000 people, Medicaid expansion is life changing.
While there is no set start date in the final bill for expansion under the legislation, it is expected to take effect upon the signing into law of the FY 2023-2025 Appropriations Act.