NC Medicaid Celebrates 50 Years of Improving Health for North Carolina

Raleigh

This year marks the 50th anniversary of North Carolina’s Medicaid program, which provides health coverage for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, seniors and people with disabilities throughout the state. The NC Department of Health and Human Services will celebrate the milestone throughout the year with #NCMedicaidAt50 and by collecting stories on the impact of Medicaid in North Carolina.

Launched in 1970, Medicaid provides health coverage to people who otherwise would likely be unable to afford it. It is funded by both the federal government and the state. Today, Medicaid and NC Health Choice support the health and well-being of 2.2 million North Carolinians and covers more than 65,000 births in the state. In 2019, close to a third of North Carolina Medicaid funding covered care for children, nearly half for people with disabilities and about 14% for people 65 and older.

Years of research show that Medicaid improves health, has long-term benefits for children and improves financial security. Medicaid beneficiaries have better access to care than those without insurance and therefore are more likely to access preventive care. Medicaid provides access to health care for low-income pregnant women and children, which has played a significant role in reducing the infant and child mortality rate over the last 50 years. In addition, research shows that Medicaid benefits state and local economic activity, creating jobs and income in North Carolina.

In January 2020, DHHS shared that Medicaid was under budget for the sixth consecutive year. The NC Medicaid 2019 annual report also noted that the program increased rates for primary care providers for the first time in several years. Rates also were increased for personal care services, which raised pay for caregivers and for dental services, increasing the services provided. And although managed care implementation was suspended, DHHS received national recognition, including articles in the New York Times and Politico, for its innovative work to integrate physical and behavioral health, invest in primary care, promote value-based payment and address non-medical drivers of health like housing stability and food security. 

“Medicaid has helped millions of North Carolinians live healthier lives,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “It is a transformative program with impacts that go far beyond health. It allows people with disabilities to work, makes it possible for more children to do well in school and lifts people out of poverty. Let’s leverage these successes to help more hardworking North Carolinians access affordable health care by expanding Medicaid.” 

North Carolina is one of a small number of states that has not expanded Medicaid. Doing so would allow more than 500,000 North Carolinians to access affordable health coverage. States that have expanded Medicaid are experiencing better health outcomes, lower health insurance premiums for those with private insurance, fewer opioid overdoses and increased financial stability for rural hospitals. Under expansion, the federal government would pay 90% of the cost, and hospitals and health plans would pay the remaining 10% in North Carolina. There would be no cost to individual state taxpayers.

DHHS would like to hear from people whose lives and communities have been impacted by North Carolina Medicaid. Stories can be sent to Medicaid.Communications@dhhs.nc.gov.  

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