Nearly 25,500 Forsyth County residents would gain coverage if North Carolina expands Medicaid, a new study has found.
Most of those 25,000 residents fall in the coverage gap, which means they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for a subsidy on the federal health insurance marketplace.
The report from Care4Carolina, released Thursday, also determined the county’s uninsured rate for non-elderly adults increased slightly from 13% to 13.8% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Care4Carolina is among the groups pushing for the state to expand Medicaid.
The group’s coverage gap map was compiled from data by Georgetown University, George Washington University, the www.healthcare.gov marketplace and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Opioid Action Plan data dashboard.
For the 14-county region of the Triad and Northwest North Carolina, 123,956 were listed as being in the coverage gap, with Guilford County at the top with 35,194.
The statewide coverage gap was estimated at more than 600,000.
“Of all the policy prescriptions to help these people, closing the gap through Medicaid would, experts agree, be the most comprehensive solution,” Care4Carolina said in a statement.
“It is also an eminently affordable fix.”
Winston-Salem businessman Don Flow, chief executive of Flow Automotive Cos., said in the Care4Carolina report that “closing the health coverage gap is so important, both for our economy and for the working citizens of our state.”
Flow serves on the bipartisan N.C. Council for Health Care Coverage blue-ribbon commission, along with Forsyth Republican legislators Sen. Joyce Krawiec and Rep. Donny Lambeth.
Meanwhile, N.C. Rural Center president Patrick Woodie said closing the coverage gap “is a human and economic imperative.”
“It’s time we worked together — across party lines, and as rural and urban communities. The health of our rural people and our rural economy depend on it.”
North Carolina is one of just 12 states that has not expanded state Medicaid health coverage. The list also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Medicaid currently covers 2.2 million North Carolinians.
There have been Democratic-led efforts since 2014 to expand Medicaid coverage to another 450,000 and 650,000.
It’s unclear whether Medicaid expansion will play the pivotal role in the 2021-22 state budget negotiations between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders.
Key state Republican legislative leaders, foremost Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, have opposed expansion since it was first discussed in 2012 as an option through the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Berger has claimed for years that the federal government may not be able to sustain its commitment of paying 90% of the additional Medicaid expansion administrative costs. The other 10% would be covered by an assessment that hospitals, providers and health insurers have pledged to pay.
In 2019, with the Republican legislative super-majority ended in both chambers, Cooper pushed for Medicaid expansion, along with higher raises for public-school educators than Republicans offered in their state budget bill.
After Cooper vetoed the 2019 House state budget bill, and Senate Republicans were unable to persuade any Senate Democrats to support a veto-override vote, much of the budget was passed through what became known as mini-budget bills in several funding areas.
The 2021 Republican Senate budget bill does not include funds for Medicaid expansion. The House has not unveiled its state budget plan.
“Our state’s unprecedented $7 billion budget surplus gives policy makers more than ample room at long last to fix our health insurance problems,” said Erica Smith, president of Care4Carolina.
She said Care4Carolina’s coalition of more than 100 organizations “will continue to call on senators and other elected officials to seize the opportunity and close the coverage gap.”
In September, Care4Carolina released a poll that found about 75% of North Carolinians supported Medicaid expansion.
The coalition sponsored a survey of 612 N.C. registered voters that was conducted by Harper Polling and The Stewart Group on Aug. 26-27.
About half of those surveyed came from four state Senate districts, including District 31 represented by Krawiec.
The survey found that 83% of individuals registered as Democrats, 76% registered as unaffiliated and 64% registered as Republicans support closing the gap.
In District 31, 68% of survey respondents support closing the coverage gap, while 14% oppose. When asked specifically about expanding Medicaid, 69% supported and 26% opposed.
“A solid majority of respondents say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more concerned about the number of uninsured or under-insured North Carolinians,” according to the report.