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Doctors: Expanding Medicaid will relieve N.C. hospitals
500,000 more residents would be insured
 
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013
by Stephanie Carroll Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers must decide in this session whether the state will expand the state's Medicaid program.


Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to expand health coverage to those making about $15,000 or less a year. Raleigh pediatrician Dr. John Rusher, president of the North Carolina Pediatric Society, says insuring more of the state's citizens also benefits the communities in which they live.


“It affects their own personal health and it gives them a medical home for when they need acute care instead of going to the emergency room,” he said.


If North Carolina expands Medicaid coverage, the federal government will cover the cost of the expansion for the first three years and about 93 percent of the cost for the next decade. Federal money would equal an estimated $20 billion for the state. The Medicaid expansion would insure about 500,000 citizens who currently are uninsured.


Expanding Medicaid is considered a necessity for hospitals in rural areas where so many patients have low incomes and are uninsured. Rusher says the option to expand Medicaid will lighten the financial burden placed on hospitals.


“Hospitals are required to see everyone,” he said. “You get lots of uninsured that come in and use the hospital's services. The cost has to go somewhere.”


Rusher says expanding the program will cut back on the problem of North Carolina doctors and hospitals having to provide about $3 billion in uncompensated care to the uninsured every year. Currently, much of those costs are passed along to those with insurance in the form of higher annual premiums.

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