Carolina Public Press: Local activists, groups keep pressure on for Medicaid expansion

Report by Carolina Public Press

Organizers of a forum last Thursday said they hope state leaders will reverse their decision not to expand Medicaid coverage, which, according to one estimate, would have given about 110,000 more Western North Carolinians access to the health program.

They also are hoping to tap into the interest of the nearly 70 people who attended the forum to help convince state legislators to expand Medicaid coverage next year.

The Western North Carolina AIDS Project and several other health-care advocacy groups sponsored the forum, held at UNC Asheville. Organizers presented an overview of the benefits of Medicaid expansion and the insurance marketplace that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Enrollment for the insurance marketplace begins Oct. 1. Individuals without adequate, affordable health insurance can apply. Even if someone has coverage through their employer, they can still opt out of that plan if it doesn’t cover at least 60 percent of health-care costs and if premiums are more than 9.5 percent of their household income, explained Allison Rice, an attorney at Duke Law School.

On March 6, Gov. Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 4. The bill rejects a state-based insurance exchange and blocks Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. Hendersonville Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca was one of the bill’s primary sponsors. …

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