By Lee Storrow, Executive Director, NC AIDS Action Network
Tuesday, December 15, 2015, is the final day to apply for health insurance on the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to guarantee coverage in 2016.
Approximately 460,000 residents of North Carolina are already enrolled in ACA plans. The ACA was a landmark achievement to increase access to health care for all residents of our country, and will have a profound impact on our ability to fight HIV/AIDS.
In addition to creating competitive health insurance marketplaces, broadening Medicaid eligibility is an important component of the ACA's goal of increasing access to healthcare. Unfortunately, to date, our state's political leaders have failed to move on closing the coverage gap in North Carolina. Expanding Medicaid would provide health insurance to over 500,000 North Carolinians, including thousands of people living with HIV.
Expanding Medicaid wouldn't just improve the health of those living in our state, but it would also improve North Carolina's economic wellbeing. A year ago, the Cone Health Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust released a report detailing the potential benefits of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. The one-year anniversary of these findings provides an opportunity to look back on what this study shows we've missed out on in North Carolina in the meantime.
Over the course of this year, our state lost access to $3.3 billion in federal funding. Not only that, but more than 29,000 fewer jobs were created this year because of the state's failure to expand Medicaid. While many of these jobs would have been created in the health care industry, according to the study, "the economic benefits ripple out when health care providers purchase additional goods and services and as health care workers use new income to pay their mortgages, buy groceries, pay taxes and so on," leading to job creation in construction, retail and wholesale sectors, and other industries.
If we are serious about job creation and a healthier state, it's long past time for North Carolina to expand Medicaid.