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Support North Carolina Legislation to Close the Medicaid Coverage Gapby Andrew Whiteman

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Support North Carolina legislation to close the Medicaid gap.

Yesterday, on the first day of the 2019 session, North Carolina legislators introduced Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 5, which would raise the eligibility ceiling for citizens to qualify for Medicaid. The Bills would provide Medicaid coverage to those who have modified adjusted gross income that is at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, are age 19 or older and under age 65, are not eligible for or enrolled in Medicare Parts A or B, and are not otherwise entitled to Medicaid.

Why is this important?

The North Carolina General Assembly declined to expand Medicaid for the last six years, thereby rejecting free federal dollars that would cover 90% of the cost of the expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion was supposed to fill the coverage gap. According to a North Carolina Justice Center paper, an estimated 300,000 North Carolinians are currently in the so-called coverage gap. They make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to receive financial assistance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Most folks in the coverage gap can be described as the “working poor” and include low-paid employees in the construction, fast food, and retail sectors.

Disabled individuals may also fall in the coverage gap. I have seen this happen many times. Workers who become disabled due to accident or illness usually lose their employer-sponsored health care. Having no income, or limited income provided by disability benefits, the disabled often cannot afford the cost of continued coverage under COBRA. Approval for Social Security disability often takes years, and Medicare eligibility is delayed for 24 months after the effective day of approval. During the waiting period, the disabled often fall in the coverage gap between the current Medicaid eligibility ceiling and the Affordable Care Act subsidy floor. The lack of affordable health coverage adversely affects workers’ ability to afford treatment and impedes their ability to recover and return to the workforce. To make matters worse, the lack of affordable health care makes it more difficult to prove disability to the Social Security Administration or private disability insurers.

You can make a difference!

Let the senators and representatives who introduced this legislation know that you support their efforts. More importantly, let your senator or representative know that you care about this important issue. A list of North Carolina legislators and their contact information may be found here.

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