ATLANTA, Georgia – February 27, 2024 – The Georgia House passed H.B. 1339 today, which in part forms a health care coverage commission.
Medicaid expansion will prove extremely valuable in the fight against cancer
December 1 is a monumental day for North Carolina. The Tar Heel State should feel a sense of pride and relief for the nearly 600,000 North Carolinians who are now eligible for affordable health insurance through Medicaid. We at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are thrilled to see this decade-long fight culminate in the exciting rollout of Medicaid expansion.
Now, hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians can access affordable health insurance, including preventive, lifesaving care, which is critical to our mission at ACS CAN. In fact, we know having health coverage is a top indicator of a patient’s chances of surviving cancer. As my colleague and Duke professor Dr. Arif Kamal would say, cancer is curable if it’s caught early, but it’s only caught early if it’s screened for, and screening requires appropriate health insurance. But it doesn’t stop there. An early diagnosis can only be lifesaving if people then have access to the care they need. North Carolina’s Medicaid expansion will mean more people can be screened for cancer, access treatment and not only survive, but thrive, after a diagnosis.
This change is even more important when you consider the costs of cancer do not impact all people equally; people of color with a cancer history who are under 65 pay more than four times the annual health care expenses for their medical care. They are also more likely to experience financial hardship and insecurity. Increasing access to health insurance will save lives, lower long-term medical costs to patients and the state and support North Carolina’s health system by keeping critical rural hospitals open. With full implementation of Medicaid expansion, North Carolina becomes the 40th state to close the health care coverage gap and get people access to lifesaving care.
This day is particularly meaningful for our ACS CAN volunteers who met with their legislators, wrote letters, attended rallies and spoke with reporters about the dire need to close the coverage gap in North Carolina. The mission is personal for these advocates, like DonnaMarie Woodson, who knows how health insurance can save your life. Woodson, who lives in Charlotte, put off her cancer screenings when she didn’t have coverage. Once the Affordable Care Act passed and she gained affordable health insurance, she got a colonoscopy that found cancer in its early stages. She went on to survive the disease and wants every other North Carolinian to have the same chances. Woodson campaigned tirelessly for North Carolina to expand Medicaid because she knows coverage can mean the difference between life and death.
Now that Medicaid has expanded, it’s important to know the rules have changed. That means if you were rejected for Medicaid in the past, you may be approved this time. It’s important to submit an application and look at your health insurance options. Our website has more information about how to enroll and where you can schedule an in-person appointment for help in your community.
Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will see benefits from Medicaid expansion in the coming months and the investment will continue to be felt for years with a healthier work force, reduced health disparities and expanded access to federal health care funds.
Every American deserves access to affordable health insurance. North Carolinians have that access now and we hope in time, we will share this victory across all 50 states.
Lisa Lacasse is the president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the non-partisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.
This is an op-ed that originally published on Dec. 1, 2023 in NC Newsline.