Report lists benefits of Medicaid expansion to McDowell

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

Medicaid expansion

If North Carolina expands Medicaid, McDowell County could see 95 new jobs created in 2022 and more than $17 million in additional growth for the county’s economy. It would also mean almost 3,000 more people in McDowell would get Medicaid coverage in 2022. This is according to a new non-partisan report released today that focuses on the economic benefits of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. Just recently, a vigil in support of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina was held earlier this month in downtown Marion. Around 25 people gathered the evening of Wednesday, June 5 at the courthouse for the Health Care Can’t Wait vigil.

If North Carolina expands Medicaid, McDowell County could see 95 new jobs created in 2022 and more than $17 million in additional growth for the county’s economy. It would also mean almost 3,000 more people in McDowell would get Medicaid coverage in 2022.

This is according to a new non-partisan report released Tuesday that focuses on the economic benefits of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. The report was prepared by researchers at The George Washington University with funding from Cone Health Foundation and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

For McDowell County, the expansion of Medicaid would lead to creating 95 new jobs in 2022 alone and a $17.4 million growth in the county economy in just two years from 2020 to 2022. There would also be $209,300 more in county tax revenue from 2020 to 2022.

Aside from the economic boost, the expansion would see humanitarian benefits. The report states 2,869 more people in McDowell would get needed Medicaid coverage.

Statewide, the expansion would create more than 37,000 new jobs and insure approximately 365,000 more people. In addition to the new jobs created and the hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents gaining coverage, the researchers estimate that the state would increase its business activity by $11.7 billion in just three years, between 2020 to 2022. It’s money that could be spent on education, infrastructure and other needs, according to a news release about the report.

“Medicaid expansion is a job creator and can extend health coverage to thousands of previously uninsured North Carolinians who are falling through the gaps in our current system,” said Susan Shumaker, president of Cone Health Foundation. “States that have already expanded Medicaid are better equipped to tackle critical health care concerns like opioid addiction and infant mortality rates, issues that need to be addressed here at home in North Carolina.”

(Note: For an argument against Medicaid expansion, read Republican State Senate Leader Phil Berger's weekend op-ed in the News & Observer of Raleigh here.)

The new analysis updates a 2014 report, providing a county-by-county look at the number of jobs, new Medicaid enrollees and economic growth that would result from the state expanding Medicaid. With nearly one in six non-elderly adults in North Carolina uninsured (16%) – a rate that is above the national average (12%) – every county, urban or rural, stands to benefit. For example, both an urban county like Wake and a rural county like Burke will create jobs under Medicaid expansion, 4,076 and 456, respectively, according to the news release.

“This report confirms what we’re hearing from families across the state – increased access to quality health care and economic opportunities helps communities thrive, and research shows that expanding Medicaid delivers both,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Every community stands to benefit from Medicaid expansion. The evidence shows that closing the Medicaid gap will improve population health, support vulnerable North Carolina families and boost the economy across the major sectors.”

North Carolina remains just one of 14 states yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and according to experts at The George Washington University, Medicaid eligibility requirements in North Carolina are the ninth most restrictive in the country. As a result, nearly 1 million North Carolinians between the ages of 19 and 64 are uninsured.

About half the jobs created would be in health care (such as hospitals or clinics), while almost half would be in other sectors, such as construction or retail and wholesale trade. This ripple effect occurs because Medicaid funding received by hospitals, clinics or drug stores is used to pay workers’ salaries and to buy other goods and services. The economic benefits multiply as these funds are, in turn, used to pay for mortgages or rent, buy food and pay state and county taxes.

Expansion of Medicaid will not only help more people get access to affordable health care, it can serve promote economic development and job creation across the state, according to the news release.

Just recently, a vigil in support of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina was held earlier this month in downtown Marion. Around 25 people gathered the evening of Wednesday, June 5 at the courthouse for the Health Care Can’t Wait vigil, which was organized by the N.C. Justice Center and the West Marion Community Forum. Marion stood in solidarity with more than 20 other cities and towns across the state holding similar events. These simultaneous memorial vigils were held to honor and remember the people who have died and suffered because of the Medicaid coverage gap, according to organizers.

At the local vigil, members of the Marion City Council, representatives of the West Marion forum and other concerned residents expressed their support for expanding Medicaid.

“I would venture to say none of you here this evening has anything negative about expansion in 36 other states,” said Mayor Pro Tem Billy Martin at the June 5 vigil. “It disturbs me to no end when our leaders who have health insurance try to justify not making it possible for others to have health insurance too. Some changes are going to have to happen in Raleigh. It’s not who is right. It’s what is right.”

Similar vigils took place that evening in Asheville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Sylva, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham and other cities in the state.

For more information, see “The Economic and Employment Benefits of Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina: A 2019 Update” at www.NCMedicaidExpansion.com.

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