Medicaid could now be covering half a million North Carolinians who have incomes above the regular income limits but don’t qualify for tax credits for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The ACA’s intent was for states to expand Medicaid coverage to virtually all low-income people, with the federal government picking up almost all the cost for three years and 90 percent thereafter.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could “opt out” of the Medicaid expansion, and Republican leaders in North Carolina – ideologically opposed to the ACA and more specifically to all things associated with President Obama – did just that. So now perhaps 500,000 North Carolinians who could qualify for the federal/state health insurance program for the poor and disabled don’t have the coverage thanks to that “Medicaid gap.” It was an astonishingly partisan and cruel step from the General Assembly.
On Wednesday, advocates of expansion were on Jones Street pushing legislators to expand Medicaid, something they’re unlikely to do. A couple of bills would address the problem of people caught in the gap. Expansion would also provide income for doctors and hospitals who cover Medicaid patients. It would make it possible for more of them to help more people.
North Carolina is a poor state for many. Better health care for all residents could help it bolster its economy and make it a stronger place for all.