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National Report: 350 Died in N.C. due to no Medicaid Expansion


A new report may or may not capture state Republican legislative leaders’ attention in their almost two-month budget standoff with Gov. Roy Cooper, but it definitely strengthens Cooper’s argument for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), 350 people in North Carolina died “…because of the lack of affordable health care coverage,” and had Medicaid - government sponsored health care for low-income residents - been expanded, they may not have.

The NBER report adds that North Carolina is third in the nation per the number of deaths associated with the lack of Medicaid Expansion. Florida is second with 700, and Texas is first with just over 700.

“[T]his data provides new and compelling evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid has a profound affect on the life expectancy of adults living in the coverage gap,” writes Alexandra Sirota, director of the nonprofit N.C. Budget and Tax Center. By expanding Medicaid for the needy, states are able to improve health outcomes, provide better management of health conditions, and improve the quality of life for those who otherwise would lack coverage.

“By linking death records and data on program participation and health outcomes across all states, the authors of this new report estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on the mortality rate of near-elderly adults,” Sirota maintains. “Their findings point to a 9.3 percent decline in annual mortality for this age group in those states with Medicaid expansion. The primary reason for the improvement in life expectancy is disease management while under the care of Medicaid.”

On Monday, Gov. Cooper’s Press office accused Republican legislative leadership in the N.C. General Assembly of “dithering” instead of negotiating a budget compromise that would, among other things, expand Medicaid to 500,000 - 600,000 more North Carolinians, and finally send state lawmakers home from the long legislative session.

Republicans in the state House and Senate, unable to overcome Cooper’s veto of their budget, counter that they flatly refuse to expand Medicaid because most of the people it would cover are able-bodied and don’t need it. They, instead, plan to carve up the much delayed $23 billion budget into smaller bills covering teacher and state employee raises, and also rainy day fund refund checks to taxpayers, daring the governor to veto those bills when passed, especially with the 2020 election coming up.

The political impasse is expected to continue way into September.