Report: Medicaid expansion would create jobs, infuse Chatham’s economy with millions by 2022

Posted 7/5/19

A new report says the expansion of the Medicaid insurance program in North Carolina would create hundreds of jobs and bring millions of dollars to Chatham County’s economy.

The study, conducted …

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Report: Medicaid expansion would create jobs, infuse Chatham’s economy with millions by 2022

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Posted

A new report says the expansion of the Medicaid insurance program in North Carolina would create hundreds of jobs and bring millions of dollars to Chatham County’s economy.

The study, conducted by George Washington University and funded by the North Carolina-based Cone Health Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, comes as state legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper spar over the inclusion of Medicaid expansion in this year’s budget.

According to the research, expanding Medicaid access in the state would create 228 jobs, provide health insurance to 3,673 more people and put $27.8 million more in Chatham’s economy by 2022. The county would also be the beneficiary of $1.352 million in additional tax revenue, the study said.

County officials have already come out in favor of Medicaid expansion. The Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution in April asking the General Assembly to expand the program, and both of Chatham’s legislators — Sen. Valerie Foushee and Rep. Robert Reives II, both Democrats — have co-sponsored bills that would put Medicaid expansion into effect.

But as Reives said in April, “I don’t believe we’re on a path right now that would get us a vote, unfortunately.”

In late June, state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) penned an op-ed for the News & Observer of Raleigh in which he stated Medicaid expansion “would be a mistake that not only will fail to solve the problems its proponents claim it solves, but will create new problems and rekindle problems that have just recently been put to rest — such as Medicaid cost overruns and yearly budget deficits.”

But that hasn’t stopped health care professionals and elected officials from continuing to push the initiative’s projected results. In a press release with the GWU study, Cone Health Foundation President Susan Shumaker said the program would help cover state residents “who are falling through the gaps in our current system,” and the 36 states that already have Medicaid expansion in place are “better equipped” to tackle health care issues like the opioid crisis and infant mortality. Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, said the report confirms the twin benefits of “increased access to quality health care” and “economic opportunities.”

“Every community stands to benefit from Medicaid expansion,” Gerald said. “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.”

Back in April, the board of trustees at Chatham Hospital in Siler City presented a resolution in favor of several health care-related policies, including Medicaid expansion, to Cooper at a roundtable with representatives from other rural hospitals. Signed by board chairman Mary Beck and interim hospital president Jeffery Strickler, the resolution said Medicaid expansion in other states has led to improved health, reduced emergency department use and decreased medical debt.

“Medicaid supplemental payments are vital in the administrative health of hospitals who provide substantial levels of uncompensated care,” the resolution stated. “Maintenance of these payment models are also critical in the recruitment of physicians at a time of a looming physician shortage in our state. Expansion of supplemental payment programs can be accomplished through the Department of Health and Human Services working with newly-contracted Medicaid managed-care companies.”

Statewide, the study projected Medicaid expansion would create more than 37,000 new jobs — with about half in the health care field and half elsewhere — and infuse the economy with around $11.7 billion, with around 365,000 more people getting health insurance.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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