Thousands enrolled in Medicaid in NC’s first 12 days of expansion. Here’s the new data

Medicaid expansion in North Carolina is now in full effect, and initial enrollment data indicates a strong start, according to the state’s health secretary.

“Out of the gate, (we’re) feeling really good about the number of folks enrolled,” said Kody Kinsley, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, in an interview. Progress in the first few days of expansion, which started on Dec. 1, is “pretty phenomenal,” he said.

As of Dec. 12, 280,000 people have enrolled to receive Medicaid insurance, according to data shared by DHHS. Of those people, 273,000 had been enrolled in a limited-benefit family-planning Medicaid program and were moved into full coverage on Dec. 1.

Another 56,000 people have also applied, which is a 35% increase over the number of applicants in a similar period last December, according to DHHS. Of those applicants, about 8,000 have already been approved, which are included in the 280,000 total.

Prior to expansion, DHHS had estimated that about 600,000 people would become eligible for Medicaid under expansion, with about 300,000 people coming from the limited family plan.

DHHS will release an enrollment dashboard this week that will be updated monthly and will show enrollment trends for newly eligible adults ages 19-64, according to Summer Tonizzo, a spokesperson for the department.

Details provided will include age, race, ethnicity and other demographics. It will also include the percentage of eligible adults newly enrolled in Medicaid by county and type of health plan, she wrote.

NC Medicaid expansion takes effect. How to check eligibility and get health care coverage

DHHS and Kinsley shared data with The N&O in advance of that launch. Here are some of the key points through Dec. 12:

  • Over 49,000 prescriptions were filled for expansion enrollees.

  • Over 72,000 visits to Medicaid.nc.gov. Normal traffic is 26,000 visits.

  • 15,800 clicks on the state’s ePass Public Portal (website to apply for Medicaid available in English and Spanish). Normal activity is 1,000 clicks.

  • 56,000 people have applied, a 35% increase over a similar period last December. Of those, about 8,000 have already been approved.

  • 60,000 of the 280,000 newly enrolled people are over the age of 50, or just over 21%.

  • About 56% of the 280,000 new enrollees are white, 38% are Black or African American and 9% are Hispanic or Latino.

  • The highest percentages of people now covered by Medicaid are in rural areas. Robeson, Edgecombe, Richmond, and Anson are seeing some of the highest numbers of enrollees.

NC expands Medicaid outreach

DHHS will continue outreach efforts, including engaging with community leaders, sharing information on Medicaid expansion and how to enroll and more, said Kinsley.

DHHS is also launching a paid media campaign on Medicaid expansion next year, he said. This campaign’s budget is more than $4 million. It “will highly focus on rural communities” and will include working with multi-language outlets, said Kinsley. It also will include local radio ads, billboards and digital and print media, he said.

A focus of the campaign will be historically marginalized populations, including African American, Hispanic and American Indian people, according to Patsy O’Donnell, a DHHS spokesperson.

Across the state, Kinsley said, people have learned to live without health insurance, “in a very demoralizing way, and they’ve tried to figure it out; they’re tried to apply and nothing worked.”

“So really, so much of our communications are built around busting those myths, that it’s different now, it’s different … because, you know, frankly, access starts with awareness,” he said.

Previously in North Carolina, which was one of 11 states yet to adopt Medicaid expansion, adults without children were not eligible for Medicaid, while the income limit eligibility for a parent or caretaker was 41% of the federal poverty level.

But with the passage of Medicaid expansion into law this year, adults ages 19 through 64 earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line (individuals earning about $20,000 a year or families of three earning about $34,000 a year) are largely eligible.