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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - While the Supreme Court decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act, there was one part of the massive document the justices didn't like. The Court struck down the provision that forced states to expand Medicaid.
Under President Barack Obama's original plan, states would have been compelled to expand Medicaid in order to cover everyone below a certain income level. Otherwise, they would have lost all federal Medicaid funding, including what they had before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.
The justices said forcing the states to expand Medicaid was like like "putting a gun to the head of the states." Now, it will be up to each state to expand Medicaid or keep the status quo.
"If the state chooses not to expand coverage, the federal government can't yank the monies that it's already giving for the existing program," said Pam Silberman, president and CEO of North Carolina Institute of Medicine. "So basically, it takes away the big stick it has to force states to expand Medicaid coverage."
About half a million people in North Carolina will be directly affected by whether the state chooses to opt in to the Medicaid expansion. Those individuals are below the poverty line, but currently do not qualify for Medicaid coverage. For example, a family of four with a household income of less than $30,000 a year would qualify for Medicaid if North Carolina opts in to the expansion. If the state opts out, the family will continue to be ineligible for Medicaid.
The General Assembly has until 2014 to decide whether to opt in or out of the Medicaid expansion.