Easley urges legislature to fix Medicaid woes

For years, county leaders have been lobbying law makers in Raleigh to stop packing off a portion of Medicaid costs on counties. They hope this year might finally be the year.


During his State of the State address last week, Gov. Mike Easley addressed the impact Medicaid is having on “low-wealth” counties and urged legislators to “face and fix this problem, this session.”

“If any of our counties are weak, then all of us are weaker for it,” Easley said. “We have to work together to help those low-wealth counties that are struggling with the high cost of Medicaid.”

North Carolina is the only state that requires counties to cover a portion of Medicaid costs. The 5 percent share is a big burden in WNC, where poor counties have a larger percentage of the population on Medicaid, but smaller county coffers to cover those costs. Medicaid costs have grown in recent years — about 10 percent a year — along with the rise in health care costs in general and the growing population.

Medicaid will cost Haywood County roughly $3.2 million this year.

“There are a lot of local needs we could take care of with that $3.2 million,” County Manager David Cotton said at a recent budget workshop. “North Carolina is the only state left in the union that requires counties to contribute a portion of Medicaid.”

Medicaid costs in Haywood amounts to 5 cents on the property tax rate, Cotton said.

Collectively, Medicaid will cost counties $500 million across the state this year.

“Gov. Easley clearly understands the fiscal dilemma that Medicaid places on our counties as evidenced by his strong call for the Legislature to address this issue this session,”

“The county revenue structure cannot keep up with the demands that are being placed upon counties,” said David F. Thompson, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

Thompson said it is good to hear the Governor recognizes the “fiscal dilemma that Medicaid places on our counties.”

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