CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With no final state budget yet, Medicaid expansion hasn’t been implemented in North Carolina. A woman without health insurance hopes she qualifies soon for Medicaid, because it could help lengthen her lifespan.
The expansion would include more low-income adults between the age of 19 and 64.
DeAnna Brandon is one of the North Carolinians waiting on the expansion to qualify for Medicaid.
Last year, doctors diagnosed her with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.
“You don’t have the energy to wake up, to focus enough on what you are doing. I may be nauseous. I may have stomach upsets,” Brandon said.
She’s close to her family, especially her grandchildren.
“I love being beside them and I hope we can be together a long time,” Brandon said.
She worries her days with her family could be limited if she doesn’t get a stem cell transplant soon.
“That’s the last thing I can do and maybe extend my life, maybe from a three to five-year lifespan to maybe 10 to 20 years,” Brandon said.
Her barrier is the price tag.
“I don’t have insurance and I don’t qualify for Medicaid,” Brandon said.
Adults ages 19 to 64 without disabilities or dependents are not eligible for Medicaid right now. Once Medicaid expansion goes into effect, these adults will be covered if they meet income requirements.
“Since I have no income right now because I can’t work, I will qualify,” Brandon said.
Expanded Medicaid would cover Brandon’s stem cell transplant. However, Medicaid in the state is delayed because the North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t passed a budget yet.
“You’re hoping your birthday present at this point is Medicaid being approved,” Brandon said.
The Community Care Clinic of Rowan County, where Brandon is a patient, is seeing an increase in enrollment, in part because of the Medicaid expansion delay.
“That’s what we are here for and I hope that we can continue to meet those needs,” Executive Director Krista Woolly said.
The free clinic offers primary care, dental and pharmacy services for uninsured people in Rowan County. In addition, the clinic refers patients to specialists.
However, some patients may need more.
“We are able to get care, specialty care for our patients but those are non-emergent needs. If you are in, heaven forbid, a car wreck or have cancer, that’s when we have trouble getting care for people and that’s when the care needs to be happening immediately. We have a few patients who in this interim have been diagnosed with cancer and a few other emergent health needs that are in limbo,” Woolly said.
A charity program from a nonprofit hospital helped Brandon receive chemotherapy and a hip replacement, which she is grateful for. Now, her next step is to get a stem cell transplant.
“It would be my life goal, my life purpose to see them grow up, be with them and have good memories,” Brandon said.
It is estimated that Medicaid expansion will give health care access to 600,000 North Carolinians.
The expansion will mean single adults between the ages of 19 to 64 making under $20,000 and a family of three earning under $34,000 will qualify for care.
The launch date is now estimated to be in December or sometime in 2024.