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Studies show perils of declining Medicaid expansion

Studies show perils of declining Medicaid expansion

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill in March 2013 declining the Medicaid expansion associated with the Affordable Care Act, according to the Charlotte Observer.

This move taken by the governor nearly a year ago is being revealed as a poor one that could very well affect North Carolina families and businesses in a negative way.

The tax preparation firm Jackson Hewitt released a study that explains the decision to decline the expansion will result in tax penalties for employers, penalties that would not exist or would have been reduced if the state decided to expand Medicaid.

In North Carolina, these costs to taxpayers are estimated between $80 million to $120 million starting in 2015, according to the study.

More devastating than the financial cost is the human cost found in other studies.

Researchers have also suggested that between 445 and 1,145 people may die in North Carolina because of lack of coverage, according to a Jan. 30 study by Harvard and City University of New York.

Those who oppose the expansion of Medicaid have given reasons for doing so. When he initially rejected the expansion, McCrory cited the need to fix the current Medicaid system before accepting money, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Duke University Research Scholar Chris Conover criticized the Harvard-CUNY study and said that it compared death rates of uninsured to those of individuals with private insurance, which Conover maintains is superior to Medicaid, according to WRAL.

Conover does seem to have a point with certain flaws in the study, but other studies have different findings on the nature of Medicaid and of the Medicaid expansion. For instance, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that Medicaid offers good healthcare and is comparable to private coverage in some respects.

An additional study by the Commonwealth Club has estimated that North Carolina could stand to lose more than $2 billion in federal funding.

Given the negative effects, the tax penalties and the loss of federal funds that the state could experience, it is unthinkable that we should not seek to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

The way the program is set-up, the federal government will shoulder much of the burden and estimates show that state spending should not increase by any great amount, according to the Center for Budget and Public Priorities.

The Medicaid expansion could offer much needed healthcare services to the poor people in the state, which at least includes the 25.9 percent who live below the poverty line in Watauga County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sure, there will be some cost, but the Medicaid expansion allows the states to take matching funds from the federal government, and should have to pay no more than 10 percent of the cost at any time, according to Medicaid.gov.

The state will incur some costs by expanding Medicaid, but the government will bear the majority of it. We have seen from the various studies how large the cost could be if we do not expand Medicaid.

The state should reverse its decision and allow for the expansion.

Kevin Griffin, a sophomore journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

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