GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The North Carolina General Assembly could soon look at Medicaid expansion, but it’s not a new topic. In 2022, talks were on the table, but nothing was passed.

Some state lawmakers and leaders are hopeful 2023 will be the year it’s finally passed.

State officials say about 600,000 North Carolinians could benefit from better health coverage if it were to be passed.

“Ninety-three percent of people who would be impacted by this expansion, 63 percent of people are already working, a little over 23 percent are caring for someone who is disabled or they have some type of infirmary themselves and seven percent are students,” said Senator Jim Perry.

State officials said the money for Medicaid comes from the federal level.

“The way the federal government finances it is they pay for 90 percent of costs and the state has to come up with 10 percent of the costs,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley. “We’ve worked out a way that our health insurance companies and our hospitals would cover that 10 percent, so there would be no additional cost to the state taxpayer.”

“The state would actually be saving money because of a signing bonus from the administration,” Perry said. “Estimates would be that we gain about $1.3 billion.”

If passed, it could also save money for insured North Carolinians.

“In our state, because we haven’t expanded Medicaid, commercial insurance rates are about eight to 12 percent higher, according to other state’s data,” Perry said. “The average working class, mom and dad, they’re paying more for their insurance because of this.”

Officials said not only could the expansion save money, but importantly could also save lives.

“We want to make sure we are saving as many lives as we can,” said Rep. Gloristine Brown. “I think it’s very much needed especially in the rural areas because there are a lot of places that don’t have access period to health care.”

Kinsley said it’s especially important for rural communities.

“Between 30 and 40 percent more likely for people to be uninsured in a rural community than urban communities,” Kinsley said. “Rural communities are bearing the brunt of this, and I believe the General Assembly can save rural health in North Carolina by moving forward with expansion. I really do believe it’s a matter of when not if.”

Lawmakers said they’re not sure when the expansion could be passed because the discussion is ongoing.