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Report: 6,379 in Wilson’s health gap

Researchers predict 268 local jobs if state expands Medicaid

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New research shows 6,379 more Wilsonians would be covered if the proposed Medicaid expansion was approved, but multiple efforts at the state level have stalled.

“Right now, we’re sending billions of our tax dollars to D.C. and those dollars are going to the 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid,” said Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson. “They benefit the states that have expanded Medicaid, but if we expand Medicaid, that money comes back to North Carolina and is invested in health care coverage for our citizens.”

New analyses by the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University indicate about 634,000 North Carolinians would gain Medicaid coverage by 2022 if the proposed expansion is implemented by November. The state also would gain $11.7 billion in federal funding from 2020 to 2022 and those dollars would help spur the creation of at least half a million new jobs by 2022, including 268 jobs in Wilson.

Officials said the increased economic activity and employment would spur $500 million in state revenue ­— including $58.8 million more in growth to Wilson’s economy and $695,000 more in county tax revenue from 2020 to 2022.

“I feel it is the best for everybody in the state to expand Medicaid,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “It would provide 500,000 more North Carolinians with health care coverage and more jobs, which is especially needed in eastern North Carolina.”

The Center for Health Policy Research previously published a December 2014 report about the potential economic and employment effects of expanding Medicaid, but today released an update to the report with a nonpartisan analysis of the changes at the state level and in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The report indicates expanding Medicaid would increase the gross state product by $1.9 billion in 2020 and $2.9 billion in 2022, when officials believe many of the effects will stabilize.

“Although Medicaid funds would first flow to health care providers, they would then ripple out into other parts of the economy as staff employed in health and other fields purchase food, pay their rent and mortgages and make other consumer purchases,” according to the report. “The economic growth would increase North Carolina’s tax base and ultimately increase both state and county tax revenues.”

Farmer-Butterfield was a primary sponsor of House Bill 5, which included hospitals and other health care stakeholders covering the 10% of the proposed expansion not covered by the federal government. The bill has not moved since it was introduced Jan. 31 and referred to the health committee. Greenville urologist Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Pitt, is the senior chairman of that committee.

Murphy is a primary sponsor of House Bill 655 that provides a health insurance option for adults with incomes up to 138% of the poverty level, but adds requirements that low-income beneficiaries pay monthly premiums and comply with work requirements. The day after that legislation was filed in April, it also was referred to the health committee and has not moved.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed expanding Medicaid eligibility and the report notes that House Bill 655’s premiums and work requirements would depress participation.

“I believe the Democrats and Republicans need to get together in leadership positions here and stop making this a partisan issue,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “We need to put people first and come up with a compromise bill that is a win-win for everybody.”

The septuagenarian said she’s been fighting for Medicaid expansion since 2010 and will continue her efforts until more have ready access to affordable health care.

“I’m committed to making it happen in North Carolina. So much so that I’ve been able to negotiate in our bill that 10% that is automatically billed to the state will not be paid by local or state dollars, but by hospitals and other stakeholders,” she said. “Despite this, the Republicans still won’t hear the bill.”

She said she even secured assurances from the stakeholders footing the 10% that the expense would not be passed on to other patients.

“This whole country is about lifting your neighbors up and sharing with them,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “I think North Carolinians are better than nitpicking about those who can get insurance through their company and the family of four making $30,000.”

Visit NCMedicaidExpansion.com for more information and the full report.

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