Federal government calls for Medicaid expansion in NC

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The Obama Administration is calling out the McCrory Administration as well as other states that haven't expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says our state's failure to expand the health care option for low income individuals has denied thousands of people a chance to receive treatment.

Click here to read the report from DHHS.

So far, 30 states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA; Louisiana will be the 31st. North Carolina is among the other 20 states that have not entered the program.

Armed with a new, state-by-state report chronicling the benefits of expansion, federal health officials made their case to reporters on Monday.

"There's no doubt that expansion increases access to health care," officials repeated on the press call, after which they sent out detailed breakdowns of how individual states could benefit.

"Today's report highlights that, along with its other benefits, Medicaid expansion would dramatically improve access to treatment for people with mental and substance use disorders, thereby improving health outcomes," officials said. "Research shows that low-income adults with serious mental illness are significantly more likely to receive treatment if they have access to Medicaid coverage, with benefits for their health. The report estimates that if North Carolina expanded Medicaid, 29,000 fewer individuals would experience symptoms of depression and 42,000 additional individuals would report being in good or excellent health."

Governor Pat McCrory has resisted Medicaid expansion since his election three years ago. He has repeatedly said he would revisit the issue once our "broken" Medicaid system was fixed.

Last year, state lawmakers took steps to reform Medicaid in North Carolina. Asked about the federal report today, Governor McCrory said, "I've asked the president in the Oval Office whether or not he'd consider a worker training requirement if we considered expansion of Medicaid and the President refused to consider a worker training requirement."

Monday, federal officials wouldn't comment on North Carolina's application for a waiver. Instead, they stressed ways expanding Medicaid could help the state, specifically by helping people with substance, mental and behavioral health issues.

"If states are serious about addressing mental illness and substance abuse disorders, expanding Medicaid offers a unique opportunity to do so," one federal health official promised.

And in that, there does seem to be overlap with Governor McCrory's priorities.

"I'm most interested in Medicaid expansion for more of a targeted audience," he said, "especially those with Alzheimer's and also those with other diseases where they cannot help themselves. So those are the people I'm most interested in helping at this point in time."

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