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NC Medicaid expansion will give hundreds of thousands living in poverty access to health coverage for the first time

Drug costs are the fastest growing part of state Medicaid budgets.
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Drug costs are the fastest growing part of state Medicaid budgets.

Beginning next month, Medicaid expansion takes place in North Carolina, giving hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty access to coverage for the very first time.

Prior to the expansion, Medicaid rules in North Carolina were among the strictest in the nation. There were subsidies for folks living at 100% of the federal poverty level and above, but those below that threshold often had no access to Medicaid.

On December 1st that changes with adults between zero and 138% of the federal poverty level becoming eligible.

Nick Riggs directs NC Navigator Consortium, a federally funded, statewide network that provides health coverage information at no cost.

“I couldn’t be more happy that we don’t have to tell a family of three who make very little, ‘Sorry, we can’t connect you to Medicaid or marketplace coverage.’ And have that difficult conversation about how to connect them to different community centers and find help," he said, "Having to look somebody in the eye and tell them that you can’t help them is not fun.”

Riggs says spreading the word at the local level means coordinating efforts with statewide community health groups and other organizations whose clinics are frequented by those in the coverage gap.

Priorities include increasing enrollment capacity, additional hiring, and getting information out to the communities that need it most.