RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper expects Medicaid expansion across North Carolina to begin Dec. 1.
The passing of the state budget last week opened the door for Medicaid coverage for 600,000 low-income adults.
"It's really going to provide coverage for people that are working across the state that are caught in the gap. They don't qualify for government assistance right now, but they don't make enough money to pay the outrageous prices that they have to pay for private insurance," said Chip Baggett, who runs the North Carolina Medical Society, which has been advocating for expansion for years.
Medicaid expansion has been one of Cooper's top priorities since taking office.
Cooper announced shortly after the budget was passed that he would let it become law without his signature so the expansion could go forward.
Baggett said this decision isn't just building healthier North Carolinians, it's building a healthier state in the long run.
"Whether it's building a business, whether it's building strong education, whether it's recruiting the most talented people to our communities, making sure that these folks are covered and they're not having to be covered by other taxes or other avenues is vitally important," Baggett said.
After the General Assembly approved expansion earlier this year, the rollout date was delayed after the issue was tied to the state budget.
With that budget now passed, eligible North Carolinians can expect that expansion to go live in just a few short months.
Medicaid expansion is expected to have sweeping effects right off the bat. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services anticipates that about 300,000 people who are receiving Medicaid family planning benefits will automatically be enrolled in coverage as a result of this expansion.
"I talk with workers straining every day to keep our economy going while suffering through pain or illness that they cannot afford to treat," Cooper said. "I meet with parents who watch adult children fall to opioid addiction, unable to afford health care that could save them. To many of these families, I say now, finally, help is on the way."
Come Dec. 1, North Carolina will become the 41st state to pass some sort of Medicaid expansion since 2014.
Ciara Zachary is a professor in UNC's Department of Health Policy and Management and is thinking about Medicaid Expansion's effect on the big picture, too.
"I even think about children who will now be able to have families that have health care coverage because we know when parents get covered, kids get covered. And the sooner that kids get their health care, they grow up to be healthier adults," said Zachary.
Zachary said the decision was a long time in coming, and called it an investment in North Carolina's future.
"I think overall this is an investment in North Carolina and being a place that people want to live and want to contribute to. So I think it's going to help bring business to North Carolina. And I think it's going to help secure and strengthen the businesses that are already here," Zachary said.