Beginning on Dec. 1, 2023, North Carolina Medicaid will cover people ages 19 to 64 with higher incomes. Many local residents may be eligible to get health care coverage though Medicaid, even if they did not qualify before, according to Alexander County DSS Director Thomas Mitchell.
Trena Riddle, Economic Services and Adult Services Program Administrator for DSS, told The Times there are currently about 10,000 Alexander County residents on Medicaid. The new expanded system will add about 3,000 residents who will qualify under the new rules.
She and her staff are ready to help residents apply for Medicaid under the expansion.
“The expansion of Medicaid is a momentous milestone that promises to bring numerous benefits to the residents of Alexander County. The dedicated Medicaid team at DSS is fully prepared to offer their support,” said Thomas Mitchell, Alexander County DSS Director. “As we embark on this journey, it’s important to note that we cannot predict the initial demand or turnout for application assistance. Presently, we are already managing nearly 10,000 Medicaid cases, so we kindly request patience as we navigate this surge in demand.”
Mitchell said the most efficient method to apply for Medicaid benefits is online at https://epass.nc.gov but DSS staff will be prepared to assist citizens in person when the expansion launches.
“Applying online is the quickest and most convenient method for submitting your Medicaid application,” he said. “For those who wish to apply in person, our staff will be available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., although citizens should be prepared for longer wait times as we strive to address each client’s unique needs.”
Medicaid expansion increases the eligible population to adults aged 19-64 who have incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, expansion gives health care coverage to single individuals making under $20,000 a year. Likewise, a family of three earning under $34,000 combined will now be eligible. Beneficiaries will get care the same way as existing Medicaid beneficiaries and be eligible for the same comprehensive benefits and copays as other non-disabled adults in Medicaid.
Riddle said the eligibility also requires the person to be a North Carolina resident, a U.S. citizen, to not be receiving Medicare Part A or Part B, and if the applicant has a child under age 21, the child must have its own insurance coverage.
Riddle added that DSS staff will help Medicaid applicants who already in the system to apply for the new benefits and thus eliminate duplicating paperwork.
Mitchell emphasized that DSS staff are committed to providing clients with the individualized attention they deserve and are prepared to devote the time and resources necessary to serve each client’s specific needs. DSS will also add a computer center for individuals who need computer and internet access for online applications.
“We are thrilled that the expansion of Medicaid is now a reality for North Carolinians who have long awaited this moment,” Mitchell said. “Your patience is greatly appreciated as we work diligently to process the volume of applications.”
Riddle noted that a person must also apply for Medicaid benefits and be denied Medicaid before they can go on to purchase health insurance through the federal Marketplace.
Medicaid expansion will be transformative for access to health care in rural areas, for veterans, working adults, and their families while bringing billions in federal dollars to the state. North Carolina is one of 41 states that has expanded Medicaid since it was authorized in 2014.
Statewide, approximately 300,000 eligible people currently receiving Medicaid Family Planning benefits will automatically be enrolled in full health care coverage. About 600,000 eligible people will receive additional benefits as a result of the expansion.
For more information about the expanded eligibility for NC Medicaid, visit https://medicaid.ncdhhs.gov/north-carolina-expands-medicaid or call Alexander County DSS at 828-632-1080.