This week, Governor Roy Cooper will embark on a listening tour of rural communities impacted by hospital closures to highlight the urgent need to start Medicaid Expansion that has already been agreed to in a strong bipartisan vote of the legislature. The Governor will hold roundtable discussions in Martin, Richmond and Yadkin counties with health care providers, members of law enforcement, local elected officials and others who have been impacted by the failure to expand Medicaid. Each of these counties has experienced the closure of a major hospital in recent years, including the closure this month of Martin General Hospital in Williamston.
“The continued failure to pass a budget and start Medicaid Expansion is devastating for our rural communities who have been waiting for years for this support and cannot afford any more hospital closures,” said Governor Cooper. “Whether it’s drawing down federal money to battle the opioid epidemic or just keeping the hospital doors open, Medicaid Expansion is critical to supporting rural North Carolina, and we cannot delay any longer.”
Since the beginning of 2014 when states first became eligible to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, seven rural hospitals in North Carolina have closed, due in part to high levels of uncompensated care when patients to not have health care or the ability to pay for services.
In recent weeks, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has started the legally-required process of removing people from Medicaid who are no longer eligible with the end of the federal Public Health Emergency. Since June 1, at least 18,000 people have lost health care coverage who likely would have been able to keep it under Medicaid Expansion and an estimated 9,000 people will continue losing coverage each month until Medicaid Expansion starts.
Medicaid Expansion includes a so-called signing bonus of $1.8 billion in addition to $521 million per month to North Carolina that would boost rural hospitals by increasing reimbursement rates and reducing the risk of financial troubles. The signing bonus can be used to boost mental health services across the state that are key to fighting the opioid epidemic.
Governor Cooper signed a bill authorizing Medicaid Expansion into law on March 27, 2023, but a provision that the Governor opposed in the bill tied enactment of Medicaid Expansion to passage of this year’s state budget. Legislative leaders touted then that a budget would be passed by June.
Despite holding supermajorities in both chambers, the Republican controlled legislature still has not passed a budget.
Governor Cooper’s administration is working to support health care in rural communities, often working directly with providers. Governor Cooper has also prioritized a major expansion of high-speed internet that can bring telehealth to areas that lack in-person medical providers, including over $340 million in GREAT grants that have been awarded to help bring high-speed internet to 139,599 households and 4,447 businesses across the state.
Details on location and timing for each roundtable to follow.