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ACA backers press for Medicaid
N.C. turned down federal expansion
 
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 9:08 pm
by Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service

ASHEVILLE – Isabella Jackson is one of 500,000 people in North Carolina who would have benefited from a Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act. But earlier this year, state lawmakers turned down $20 billion in federal assistance.

Jackson recently was denied Medicaid coverage because she made $15 more than the maximum monthly income allowed for coverage.

“That cutoff point would have been raised if our governor would have accepted the expansion,” Jackson said, “and I know there’s so many other parents in this boat.”

Jackson said the income was from a temporary job, not stable employment, but since eligibility is determined by a total income figure she was denied coverage. The federal government pays the entire cost of a state’s Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. North Carolina lawmakers who voted to turn it down said they don’t want to add any additional costs to the state budget in the future.

Peggy Weil, advocacy coordinator for the Western North Carolina AIDS Project, said the Medicaid expansion would have covered an additional 5,000 North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS. State lawmakers still could vote to accept Medicaid dollars if a new bill was introduced, she said.

“It is not too late,” Weil said. “As soon as people understand the foolishness of this decision and demand that our state expands Medicaid, we can do it.”

Adding to the controversy is an investigation by North Carolina Health News. It found the state Department of Health and Human Services edited its response to a state audit of the Medicaid program - resulting in an audit very critical of the program. Weil said it’s important for people to understand the whole picture.

“It is an award-winning program in the nation,” Weil said, “but they’ve managed to skew the information to portray it in such a way that it is ‘broken.’ It makes a nice soundbite.”

The state’s Medicaid program now serves 1.6 million people.

 

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