Governor Cooper Highlights Urgent Need to Start Medicaid Expansion at Martin County Roundtable
Governor Roy Cooper held a roundtable discussion in Williamston to highlight the urgent need to start Medicaid Expansion that has already been agreed to in a strong bipartisan vote of the legislature. The Governor was joined by health care providers, members of law enforcement, and local elected officials to discuss the impacts of the failure to expand Medicaid. Governor Cooper also visited Martin General Hospital, which closed this month and is the seventh North Carolina rural hospital to be shut down since 2014 when Medicaid Expansion first became an option under the Affordable Care Act.
“The residents of Martin County have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of the failure to expand Medicaid in North Carolina and we need to do everything we can to help with the immediate consequences of the hospital closure,” said Governor Cooper.
“Republican leaders need to do their jobs, pass a budget and start Medicaid Expansion now to support our state’s rural communities, keep hospital doors open and draw federal money to fight the opioid crisis.”
“Health care and health coverage are vitally important to everyone, but especially so to those in rural North Carolina. It’s why the Department is working hard with our partners to launch Medicaid Expansion on October 1,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Mark Benton. “Doing so will enable access to care for up to 600,000 residents, shore up health care providers, and invest in healthy rural communities. The only thing standing in the way of getting this done is one sentence of authority from the General Assembly.”
“As the Sheriff of Martin County, I fully support any legislation that would improve the quality of life and health of the citizens of not only Martin County, but North Carolina as well,” said Martin County Sheriff Tim Manning. “As a Tier 1 designated county, access to health care in Martin County is extremely limited and it is my hope that every citizen of this county has access to quality health care and mental health services.”
“It can be devastating not just to patients, but the entire community, when a hospital closes because it puts a strain on clinics, especially primary care, who are trying to fill the gap to care for the community,” said Dr. Jessica Triche, family physician. “To make both inpatient and outpatient care more economically viable and accessible, particularly in our rural areas, we need Medicaid Expansion now. Otherwise, we could lose other medical clinics or hospitals in the areas that need them the most.”
“As the Chairman of Martin County Board of Commissioners, I along with the entire Board recognize the significance of having a Hospital in our county – a hospital is not only a place for medical care but an economic driver as well,” said Martin County Commission Chairman Ronnie Smith. “The county has been proactive in trying to secure health care services for the past three years by searching for a hospital provider. Our efforts also include Medicaid Expansion and without medical care, this can mean the difference in determining quality of life you live.”
Today was Governor Cooper’s first stop on a three-county tour to underscore the urgent need to start Medicaid Expansion.
Martin General Hospital announced on August 2 that it was filing for bankruptcy and had closed, suspending operations effective immediately. Governor Cooper’s office and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) are working closely with local officials to assist Martin County in the aftermath of the closure.
In recent weeks, NC DHHS has started the legally-required process of removing people from Medicaid who are no longer eligible with the end of the Public Health Emergency. Since June 1, at least 18,000 people have lost health care coverage who likely would have been able to keep it under Medicaid Expansion and an estimated 9,000 people will continue losing coverage each month.
Medicaid Expansion includes a so-called signing bonus of $1.8 billion in addition to $521 million per month to North Carolina that would boost rural hospitals by increasing reimbursement rates and reducing the risk of financial troubles. The signing bonus can be used to boost mental health services across the state that are key to fighting the opioid epidemic.
Governor Cooper signed a bill authorizing Medicaid Expansion into law on March 27, 2023, but a provision that the Governor opposed in the bill tied enactment of Medicaid expansion to passage of this year’s state budget.
Despite holding supermajorities in both chambers, the Republican controlled legislature has made minimal progress on finalizing a budget.
Governor Cooper’s administration is working to support health care in rural communities, often working directly with providers. Governor Cooper has also prioritized a major expansion of high-speed internet that can bring telehealth to areas that lack in-person medical providers, including over $340 million in GREAT grants that have been awarded to bring high-speed internet to 139,599 households and 4,447 businesses across the state.