Action for Children: New data highlights need for expanded Medicaid eligibility

Full announcement from Action for Children:

Raleigh, NC) -New data show half of all North Carolina residents (49.9 percent) teeter on the edge of financial disaster with almost no savings to protect their families during a medical emergency or other financial crisis.

The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, an annual report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, ranks states on more than 50 outcome measures across five issue areas. North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation for financial stability of residents, earning average marks in Education (C), and Housing & Homeownership (C), and failing grades in Financial Assets & Income (D), Businesses & Jobs (F) and Health Care (F).

The report finds one in five North Carolina residents (18.7%) is uninsured, with the poorest 20 percent of households–those least able to absorb the financial shock of a medical emergency–4.2 times more likely to lack insurance than top earners.

“These data are a sobering reminder that North Carolina families are still struggling to rebound from the worst economic downturn in a generation,” said Deborah Bryan, president & CEO of Action for Children North Carolina, a statewide child research and advocacy organization. “Now, as the General Assembly convenes for the 2013 session, it is imperative that our legislators support policies that safeguard families’ economic security and help put our state back on the path to prosperity.”

Bryan says one such approach would be to leverage more than $5 billion in federal healthcare dollars to strengthen eligibility for North Carolina’s Medicaid program. The federal health reform law allows states to expand Medicaid to cover adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line (an annual income of about $14,850 for an individual and $30,650 for a family of four). Medicaid expansion would occur at no cost to the state for the first three years of implementation, and have only a marginal fiscal impact thereafter. Studies project Medicaid expansion will enable 500,000 North Carolinians to obtain health insurance.

The uninsured are often one serious illness or accident away from financial insecurity. Health insurance provides important protection for a household’s resources by reducing expenses incurred during treatment or a medical emergency that might otherwise force families to deplete long-term savings, or go into debt.

Studies have shown parental health and insurance status can affect children’s overall well-being. Insured children whose parents are also insured are more likely to receive check-ups and preventive care, the least costly form of care, when compared to insured children with uninsured parents, are less likely to experience breaks in their own Medicaid coverage, and may benefit from parents’ access to appropriate behavioral health.


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