North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has signed a Medicaid expansion bill into law, fulfilling a decade-long effort to expand healthcare coverage for low-income residents. The new law will provide affordable health insurance to an estimated 600,000 people in the state who previously did not have access.
"This is a historic moment for North Carolina," said Gov. Cooper at the signing ceremony. "Expanding Medicaid will improve the health and well-being of our citizens while boosting our economy and creating jobs."
The decision comes after years of political wrangling within the state legislature over whether to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion program aimed at providing healthcare insurance coverage to low-income Americans.
While many states embraced the program, North Carolina was one of only fourteen that declined it during former President Barack Obama's tenure. Supporters argued that expanding Medicaid would help lower healthcare costs by reducing emergency room visits by uninsured patients and stimulating job growth in the healthcare sector.
Opponents raised concerns about cost, with some arguing that expanding Medicaid would be too expensive given projected federal budget deficits. Others cited ideological reasons for opposing Obamacare and its associated programs.
But with Democrats now controlling both houses of Congress and President Joe Biden pledging to strengthen Obamacare, pressure has been mounting on states like North Carolina to revisit their decisions regarding participation in expanded healthcare programs.
Despite initial resistance from Republicans in the legislature, support grew among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as they became more aware of how many people were being left without adequate health coverage.
In addition to improving access to care for vulnerable populations, proponents say expanding Medicaid could also help reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. According to data from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Black adults are twice as likely as white adults to lack health insurance coverage across all age groups nationwide – a gap which is particularly pronounced in Southern states like North Carolina where racial inequality persists despite ongoing efforts towards justice reform initiatives.
With this latest decision by Gov. Cooper, North Carolina joins the ranks of 38 other states and Washington DC that have already expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.
"This is a win for North Carolinians," said Democratic Representative Verla Insko, one of the bill's sponsors. "It's time we start prioritizing affordable healthcare for our citizens."