We are in a historic moment as North Carolina becomes the 40th state to implement Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. It’s been a long road to Medicaid expansion, but with the passing of the budget and today’s announcement of a Dec. 1 launch date, we are now closer to removing barriers and extending health coverage to an estimated 600,000 North Carolinians. Thanks to the bipartisan efforts of the legislature and Governor Roy Cooper, our state has taken a giant step forward to create a North Carolina where more people have the opportunity for good health.
We applaud the efforts of broad coalitions of North Carolina advocates, nonprofits, and residents who have worked hard for more than a decade to close the coverage gap and ensure equitable access to affordable, quality health care in our state. It has taken a diverse group of stakeholders to speak to the breadth of those living in the Medicaid gap. Black, white, rural, urban, veterans, moms, health professionals, those impacted by opioid use and many others, all had a place at the coalition tables that pushed Medicaid expansion across the finish line in North Carolina. Their work is the reason we can all mark this momentous policy win.
Informing the public policy debate about Medicaid expansion has been a focus for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Cone Health Foundation for ten years. This work was never about politics—it was about the people we serve. Now, those who fell into the Medicaid gap will be able to access preventive care and mental health resources, as well as manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Expanded access to Medicaid also means increased financial security for residents because fewer families will be burdened with medical debt because they lack health insurance.
Another new challenge begins today—making sure that everyone eligible for Medicaid enrolls in the program and gains coverage. To guide enrollment, we are focused on educating and empowering community members to ensure that everyone is aware of the opportunity to get health coverage, and no one is left behind.
In recent months, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Cone Health Foundation, and other North Carolina funders have pledged more than $3 million in private funding to support Medicaid outreach and enrollment efforts to ensure eligible residents have the information they need to enroll in Medicaid and access affordable, quality health care. This is a long-term effort that will require additional public and private dollars to reach diverse communities across the state. We are calling on policymakers to make Medicaid expansion a priority and to invest in robust outreach and enrollment efforts in the coming months and years.
Despite our progress, we also acknowledge that thousands of people across our state – including some of our state’s most marginalized residents, such as undocumented immigrants – will continue to lack adequate access to health care. Our safety net organizations will remain important primary health care delivery sites and will need continued support.
While the journey has been far too long, we celebrate this moment and what it means for working residents, families, and individuals in North Carolina.
- Laura Gerald, MD, MPH
President, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
- Susan Shumaker, RN, MHA, FACHE
President, Cone Health Foundation