GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Some housing advocates believe Medicaid expansion could help solve the Triad’s affordable housing crisis. 

“I actually think of housing as preventative healthcare. It keeps folks from getting to a place that they have some of the higher acuity needs,” said Greensboro Neighborhood Development Director Michelle Kennedy. 

She said right now, Medicaid use is restrictive in North Carolina. If lawmakers choose to expand the program, funds could be used to pay for housing costs, similar to programs in other states. 

“I can think of one example of someone that I’ve worked with for a long time. She has a history of some psychological needs, a few physical health needs, but she doesn’t qualify for nursing home services or things like that,” Kennedy said. 

State Senator Michael Garrett said Tuesday that conversations on Medicaid have centered on getting the bill “across the finish line.” He said if it passes, the state can explore more innovative ways to use the funds like supportive housing. 

“This is actually one of the most fiscally responsible ways to do that, by investing those dollars in housing. Those are dollars that we don’t ultimately spend in medical costs, so there’s a good return on the investment when those dollars are used in that way, and there’s a good argument for why we should use them in that way,” Kennedy said.

Greensboro is working on other partnerships with Guilford County and Cone Health to support people without stable housing. 

“There’s often a need for respite beds as people experiencing homelessness have a medical crisis or a medical need and need to recover but don’t need to be in the hospital, and they can’t really do that in a tent,” Kennedy said. “How do we build respite beds into our community so folks have an opportunity to recover from health crises? That’s critically important.” 

She said there is a huge gap in hosing between zero and 80% of the median income, particularly for people making 60% of the area median income. 

If expanded, Medicaid dollars would have to be used for people who qualify for Medicaid based on their disability status or their own personal circumstances.