Doctor reacts to Medicaid expansion, calls it ‘a game changer’

Doctor reacts to Medicaid expansion, calls it ‘a game changer’
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 10:23 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Governor Roy Cooper signed the Access to Healthcare Options bill into law on Monday, expanding Medicare access to more than 15,000 people in Wilmington and 600,000 people across North Carolina.

“I just couldn’t be more excited,” said Dr. Khadijia Tribie, the pediatric medical director for Med North in Wilmington. “It was really a momentous and historical occasion for our state and hopefully we can lead the rest of the country that’s trying to make this decision still.”

According to data collected in the most recent Census, over 13 percent of Wilmington’s population under 65 years old don’t have health insurance. Across North Carolina, that number changes to over 12 percent.

“Think about our childcare workers,” said Tribie. “Just imagine the people who are taking care of our babies as we go off to work every day, many of whom are uninsured. It’s going to make a huge difference for so many individuals and entire communities.”

Gov. Cooper visited a school in New Hanover County last week and expressed his excitement for legislators coming to an agreement and sending the bill to his desk.

“This is a once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to make sure we have healthier North Carolinians and a stronger economy,” said Gov. Cooper.

Cassandra Brooks, who owns a preschool in Johnston County, says she knows all too well what a lack of insurance can mean for some people.

“Ms. Brenda Purnell and Ms. Kathy Faulkner were excellent early childhood teachers,” said Brooks at Monday’s signing. “[They] didn’t have health insurance and passed away due to preventable health conditions. Several childcare professionals have passed away over the years.”

Under the new Medicaid rules, people under the age of 64 with an income of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level can get Medicaid coverage through N-C Health Works.

Another section of the bill establishes measures to promote employment among people enrolled in Medicaid.

Under current law, many equipment purchases and renovations performed by medical facilities must first be approved by the government via a certificate of need review. The bill would remove the certificate of need review requirement from psychiatric beds and facilities, chemical dependency treatment beds and facilities, replacement equipment up to $3 million and certain other services and equipment expenses.

Over 600,000 people across the state can now get coverage thanks to the expansion that Dr. Tribie calls a game changer.

“More people will be able to come to the doctor’s office without fearing what the cost is going to be. I mean, that’s huge,” said Tribie. “I just look forward to having more families able to access care and build those relationships with medical providers. It’s just going to be such a rewarding space... just knowing families don’t have that fear of seeking care. I think that’s so exciting.”

The increased eligibility will take effect after the state budget is approved, which typically occurs in the summer months.