Strengthening health coverage is a crucial part of North Carolina’s public health response to COVID-19. Congress has a chance to increase the maximum rate of federal funding to support health care in every state. The funds would help North Carolina fight COVID-19 and promote economic recovery. Bolstering Medicaid funding would particularly benefit rural communities, because more families in rural North Carolina rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.
Increased Need for Medicaid Dollars
North Carolina has already seen Medicaid enrollment begin to grow since the pandemic began. The vast majority of those covered by Medicaid in North Carolina are children under 18, and adults with disabilities. Medicaid is even more important in rural North Carolina, where 54% of children rely on Medicaid for their health coverage in comparison to 39% in the state’s metro areas.
Medicaid has a history of helping children and families in times of crisis. Just like after Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, Medicaid has the flexibility to grow now to offer quality, affordable health coverage for those who lose jobs or become ill through no fault of their own.
By far, the largest allocation of federal money North Carolina receives is for the Medicaid health insurance program. Congress can maximize Medicaid funding to states by increasing a formula called the FMAP, or Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage.
Federal Medicaid funding acts as an economic stabilizer for our state. During the 2009 recession, Congress increased the FMAP by 12% to meet increased needs and protect state budgets. COVID-19 has presented an even larger crisis. A 14% FMAP increase in 2020 would acknowledge the scope of this emergency and bring in nearly $2 billion more per year in federal Medicaid dollars for North Carolina.
COVID-19 Relief Package is Key
In March, as part of the “Families First” COVID-19 response legislation, Congress increased the FMAP by 6.2%. Both of our US Senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, supported this important provision. Congress should take further action to maximize federal funds for Medicaid in its next COVID-19 relief package.US Senators Tillis and Burr’s support is crucial to the fate of this much needed federal boost. Taking this step would:
- Protect jobs in the health care sector at a time when health systems are struggling financially;
- Protect state budgets, allowing states like North Carolina to dedicate more state resources to local needs;
- Help make affordable health coverage available to more people at a time when we are fighting a global pandemic; and
- Ensure North Carolina is not forced to cut vital public health programs during a pandemic because of declining state revenues.
Medicaid is a vital tool in protecting public health as we fight a global pandemic. By injecting more support into our state’s Medicaid program, Congress will ease the strain on both our health systems and our local economy.
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