Keeping Medicaid funds in N.C.
The Feb. 14 letter “The missing Medicaid facts” from Sen. Phil Berger, top Republican leader, was itself misleading.
Before we dismiss out of hand the opportunity to provide access to affordable health care to 500,000 currently uninsured North Carolinians – at no cost to the state – we should double-check our understanding of the facts.
Senate Bill 4, No Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion, still hasn’t passed the General Assembly. I urge legislators to hold this bill until we know we are basing our decision on accurate and carefully considered information. The N.C. Medicaid program is not only not broken, it is one of the most highly regarded systems in the nation. Several states have already adapted the model to fit their needs.
The referenced audit report wasn’t damning; it identified some critically needed changes in administrative reporting and accounting standards. The new Medicaid director has already addressed most of the issues and will have all the changes in place by June 30, well in time to expand Medicaid effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The $1.4 billion shortfall ($400 million in state dollars) in this year’s budget wasn’t a surprise to anyone, including the budget writers. Secretary Lanier Cansler stated in public the Medicaid targets were unrealistic before the budget was passed. Acting Secretary Al Delia confirmed the expected shortfall to the Health and Human Services Oversight Committee last October or November.
The 500,000 uninsured people who would qualify for an expanded Medicaid are, as stated, currently uninsured. Many are childless adults who are not eligible for Medicaid regardless of how poor they are. If any employers drop their insurance and force low-income employees to apply for Medicaid, the eligibility requirements will limit the number, and they would be in addition to the 500,000 uninsured.
It is true hospitals make money on patients with private sector insurance, and they lose money on Medicaid and Medicare patients, but they lose the most on patients who have no insurance at all. Hospitals are counting on an increase in paying Medicaid patients to offset the scheduled loss of the federal indigent care funds.
We need to expand Medicaid now because the newly insured are more costly to serve during their first months on insurance, and that’s when the federal government pays 100 percent. These are tax dollars North Carolinians send to D.C. If we don’t expand Medicaid here, we will be sending our tax dollars to other states to pay for their expanded Medicaid.
Many of our low-income residents have chronic illness and need health care; they are working hard and still struggling to make ends meet. Ask Berger and other state legislators to help keep our federal tax dollars in North Carolina by expanding Medicaid now and providing health care to our own people.
Rep. Verla Insko
The writer, a Democrat, represents N.C. House District 56 in Orange County.