Source: Greensboro News & Record

North Carolina is now one of just a dozen states in the country that has yet to expand Medicaid. The list narrowed recently as voters in Missouri opted to expand the program via voter referendum, the latest in a string of red states, the Greensboro News & Record reports.

North Carolina would stand to add “between 450,000 and 650,000” to the program if Medicaid were expanded. Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the NCDHHS, said that, “it is time that North Carolina expands Medicaid.”

Voter referenda are not an option in North Carolina, so expansion likely relies on the reelection of Governor Cooper and more Democrats in the North Carolina General Assembly, experts believe. Because expansion hinges on who wins elections this November, the topic is expected to be a hot-button issue in races from the U.S. Senate down to state house.

Minority Leader Darren Jackson, the top Democrat in the North Carolina House, said that expansion would happen under a Democratic legislature, calling it “a top priority for Democrats, and when we retake the legislature this November, we will act in line with public opinion and pass expansion.”

Republicans in North Carolina have been largely opposed to expansion, particularly in the legislature. Cooper vetoed the budget presented by Republicans last year in part because they did not expand Medicaid. Democrats see it as a lifeline for rural communities, and rural Republicans agree too. Numbers of rural Republican leaders have called for expansion but the pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Raleigh.

Read the full story from the Greensboro News & Record.