Medicaid expansion passes in the NC House, lawmakers react

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Lawmakers across Eastern North Carolina are praising the State House after it voted 96 to 33 to expand Medicaid.

House Bill 76, known as “Access to Healthcare Options,” would extend Medicaid coverage to the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are not currently eligible for Medicaid and have a household income equal to or less than 133-percent of the federal poverty level.

Republican State Representative Timothy Reeder of Pitt County says it’ll help provide health coverage to low-income communities in rural areas.

And as a doctor, he’s advocated for the expansion after witnessing one woman’s medical journey.

“The hospital gave her 30 days of medication when she left, and when she came back she came back about 6 weeks later, she was in the same condition,” Reeder said. “If she had Medicaid, it would’ve prevented a tremendous bill to be in the hospital.”

One Greenville resident with a similar story is Linda Betancur. She recently moved from Florida to eastern Carolina and says she lost her coverage.

“I have not seen a doctor, I have medication that I need to get,” Betancur said.

The vote to expand Medicaid comes a few weeks after ECU Health closed five regional clinics in the east, after losing $46 million in the 2022 fiscal year.

Democratic State Representative Gloristine Brown of Pitt County hopes the bill steamrolls through the General Assembly and gets to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk soon because many lives depend on it.

“With this [bill] being passed, these clinics can maybe come back because they know the need that is in these communities,” Brown said.

The State Senate is working on a similar Medicaid bill.

A spokesperson for ECU Health tells us that the five clinics located in Aurora, Jacksonville, Snow Hill, Williamston and Wilson are expected to close sometime in March.