An estimated 600,000 people are set to benefit from the launch of Medicaid expansion on Friday. Experts say it could also narrow disparities in health coverage and access to care in North Carolina.

According to data from the Center on Budget Policy Priorities, Medicaid expansion reduces uninsured rates between white people and people of color. The nonpartisan research institute studies federal and state policies.

Senior Policy Analyst Laura Harker says people of color have historically been more likely to be uninsured because of structural issues.

"Discrimination in the labor market, segregation in employment, jobs that may not offer health insurance or as many benefits, and also just affordability is a big issue for a lot of people and whether they have coverage or not," Harker says.

According to the center, the gap in uninsured rates between white and Latino adults shrunk by around ten percentage points between 2013 and 2019 in expansion states. That's compared to around seven percentage points in states that didn't expand.

Similarly, the gap between white and Black adults shrunk 5.1 percentage points in expansion states versus 4.6 percentage points in non-expansion states.

Harker says the change increases access to care, which helps improve health outcomes for communities of color.

"It's helpful and helping to catch illnesses earlier, and at earlier stages so that you can get into treatment and then to consistent treatment," she says.

Harker says Medicaid expansion is a tool states use to increase coverage and reduce disparities. She says communities across the state who advocated for this will finally be able to get the care they need and be better protected from medical debt.

According to the center, North Carolina is the 41st state to expand Medicaid.

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