Today, Governor Roy Cooper held a roundtable discussion in Yadkinville 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 was joined by health care providers, members of law enforcement, local elected officials, business leaders and community advocates to discuss the impacts of the failure to expand Medicaid. Governor Cooper also viewed the closed Yadkin Valley Community Hospital, which is one of seven rural hospitals in North Carolina to be shut down since 2014 when Medicaid Expansion first became an option under the Affordable Care Act.
“Like many of our rural communities, Yadkin County has seen access to health care diminish due to the lack of Medicaid Expansion,” said Governor Cooper. “It’s past time for Republican leaders to do their jobs, pass a budget and start Medicaid Expansion now to give our rural areas resources to prevent hospital closures and combat the opioid crisis.”
“The lack of Medicaid Expansion has been an unfunded mandate on communities across the state, especially rural communities which have been ground zero for the opioid epidemic and have a higher rate of uninsured individuals,” said Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “We’re working every single day to launch Medicaid Expansion so they can get the care they need – we just need one sentence of authority from the General Assembly to make that happen.”
“Greater Winston-Salem, Inc. advocates for the right of all North Carolinians to be able to access quality health care,” said Greater Winston-Salem, Inc. Vice President of Public Policy Calvin McRae. “Increased health care access improves workforce outcomes and helps keep costs more affordable for employers. It is critical for legislators to pass the North Carolina budget to maintain our momentum as the top state for business.”
"Rural areas face many challenges regarding access to health care,” said Town of East Bend Mayor James Dunn. “Medicaid Expansion would provide more coverage to hardworking individuals as a safety net and would hopefully provide incentives for providers to once again service our rural areas."
"Expanding Medicaid is probably the best decision that our state leadership has made in many years to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of North Carolina and to improve health services in the rural communities of our state,” said PLLC Family Medicine Owner Dr. James McGrath.
“How can communities grow and thrive if residents have no health care insurance?” said retired Yadkin County health care professional Marty Driver. “Emergency rooms are not the answer for basic health care and unhealthy workers continue to cost our businesses and industries due to absences related to untreated chronic illness.”
Yadkin Valley Community Hospital was suddenly shut down in May 2015, resulting in the closure of the only hospital in Yadkin County at the time.
In recent weeks, NC DHHS has started the legally-required process of removing people from Medicaid who are no longer eligible with the end of the 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.
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 bring high-speed internet to 139,599 households and 4,447 businesses across the state.