Healthcare access has long been a critical issue across the United States. The debate over expanding Medicaid eligibility has been ongoing, with proponents emphasizing the benefits of improving healthcare access for thousands of low-income individuals and opponents highlighting concerns over cost and sustainability.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid eligibility requirements varied across states, leaving a substantial gap in coverage. The ACA aimed to bridge this gap by expanding eligibility to cover more individuals and families. However, a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 made Medicaid expansion optional for states, leading to a patchworked adoption across the nation. 40 states and Washington, DC have expanded Medicaid since 2014.
On December 1, 2023, North Carolina expanded who can receive Medicaid. This expansion opened benefits for more than 600,000 North Carolinians. The eligible population increased for adults ages 19 through 64 earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Medicaid expansion contributes significantly to the improvement of health care access and outcomes. Some key advantages include:
- Increased Healthcare Access – Medicaid expansion extends coverage to previously ineligible individuals, ensuring access to essential healthcare services.
- Improved Health Outcomes – With expanded access to healthcare services, individuals will likely seek preventive care and early interventions. This leads to better chronic care management, early detection, and improved health outcomes.
- Addressing Health Disparities – Medicaid expansion will reduce disparities in healthcare access and outcomes among underserved populations. It ensures more people, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have access to the same level of care.
- Boosting Preventive Care – Individuals are more likely to seek preventive services, such as vaccines, screenings, and check-ups, with expanded coverage. This proactive approach can prevent more serious health issues.
- Support for Vulnerable Populations – Medicaid expansion benefits populations such as low-income adults, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, and children, ensuring these vulnerable groups have access to necessary healthcare services.
Medicaid expansion will significantly impact the health of underserved communities in North Carolina, allowing more individuals to access and receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.