North Carolina Medicaid expansion shows bipartisanship possible

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina signed a bill into law Monday expanding Medicaid in the state. The new law garnered overwhelming bipartisan support in a statehouse controlled by Republicans, many of whom have fought the expansion nationally.

The expansion is a big step forward for people living with and vulnerable to HIV in the state.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that approximately 18% of the uninsured in North Carolina are living with or vulnerable to HIV. Many of them will now be eligible under the expansion. We also know that nationally about 40% of people living with HIV get their health care through Medicaid.

North Carolina is the 40th state to expand Medicaid. The leaders of 10 remaining states — nearly all of them in the South — that have not yet expanded Medicaid should learn from North Carolina’s decision.

Cooper, a Democrat, and the Republican state elected officials show that bipartisan efforts are achievable when we focus on what benefits the people.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has reported that this expansion will serve approximately 600,000 people. Hundreds of thousands in North Carolina will now avoid adverse outcomes through prevention services. For example, people vulnerable to HIV can get on PrEP, or preexposure prophylaxis, a medication that prevents HIV. People living with HIV will be able to get on treatment. There will be wraparound services, such as mental health, case management, and food and housing assistance. All of this will increase the ability of the residents of North Carolina to live a more stable, healthy life.

The expansion passing a statehouse with a Republican majority gives hope that others may follow suit. Republicans nationally have resisted the expansion and other parts of the Affordable Care Act. To end the HIV epidemic, access to care and prevention is critical.

AIDS United applauds this life-changing decision for those in our community and calls on the remaining 10 Southern states to follow North Carolina’s lead.