The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Monday, Nov. 27, that 102 hospitals across the state will begin receiving payments totaling $2.6 billion this week.

On Friday, Dec. 1, the state will officially launch Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, which means an estimated 600,000 people will be eligible for full Medicaid coverage.

According to a Monday, Nov. 27 press release from the NCDHHS, the federal funds are vital since “they will not only help provide much needed support to our state’s healthcare safety net, they also enable hospitals to pay for the non-federal share costs of expansion.”

 Earlier this year, state legislators voted to approve Medicaid expansion to support access to medical care for more low-income North Carolinians.

The implementation of expanded Medicare services was delayed until December 1 by state budget negotiations. However, that did give county governments like Guilford County, as well as other entities involved, more time to prepare.

Guilford County, for instance, created a whole new branch of its Health and Human Services Department this year and hired over 50 new employees – something that’s not easy to do in the current job market.

Based on the estimates of new enrollment, the Medicaid expansion program will allow the state to get more than $8 billion each year from the federal government.

In the November 27 press release, NC Governor Roy Cooper stated the implementation of the program will benefit people in the state greatly.

“Medicaid expansion is a monumental achievement that will save lives and provide better health care while sending billions to our economy,” Cooper said. “We’re beginning to see the real-life impacts of this extraordinary win for North Carolinians through these first payments to our rural hospitals that have been struggling for years to keep their doors open.”

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley echoed the sentiment.

“These payments to hospitals are a lifeline and critical as we work to strengthen rural hospitals and health systems in North Carolina,” Kinsley said. “The money will ensure people covered by Medicaid and Medicaid expansion have access to comprehensive physical and behavioral health care services in the communities they live in.”