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Westernmost NC Hospital's CEO Urges For Medicaid Expansion

Lilly Knoepp
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital CEO Mark Kimball reads Governor Roy Cooper a resolution in support of Medicaid expansion.

  Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget last week because it didn’t include an expansion of Medicaid. BPR spoke with the CEO of one of the last non-profit hospitals in Western North Carolina about how this will impact the facility. 


In April, Governor Cooper visited Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Cherokee County to talk about Medicaid expansion.  Erlanger leadership presented Cooper with a resolution in support of expanding Medicaid. Now CEO Mark Kimball is worried that expansion isn’t going to happen. 


“That uncompensated care of $17 million dollars last year will continue to rise each and every year. So that is care that we will give and we have to absorb that expense,” explains Kimball.


Kimball says uncompensated care is almost one-third of the hospital’s business. The Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System just purchased what is now Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital last year. Before that it was an independent county-owned facility called Murphy Medical Center, explains Kimball. 


“What you’ve seen here in Murphy with the hospital being purchased by a larger health system is very very common,” says Kimball. 


Mission Health Systems sale to for-profit HCA this year is just another example of that trend.  Votes in the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto of the state budget plan could happen as early as next week. Cooper’s fellow Democrats now hold enough seats in each chamber to sustain his vetoes should party members stay united. 


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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