RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In what could affect more than 500,000 people of lower incomes, North Carolina could become the next state to expand Medicaid coverage.

North Carolina is one of 12 states that have not approved the expansion. Republicans in the state legislature initially opposed the bill. But now, people from both sides of the aisle in the state senate are working together.

“We have too many people here that are uninsured, that can’t get the help that they need. They don’t get the preventative care that they need or are facing medical debt because they’ve gotten sick and didn’t have insurance, so this is just good, good news for North Carolina,” said Rebecca Cerese, a health policy advocate with the North Carolina Justice Center.

News that the state senate is moving forward with a plan to expand Medicaid makes her think of a friend and fellow advocate named Deanna. When Deanna’s son died in childbirth she no longer qualified for Medicaid.

Deanna shared that story with others, explaining that she eventually got a job with the school system which allowed her to be insured again. Soon after, Deanna was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

“She didn’t have the ability to get the pap smears, to get the preventative screenings and unfortunately, by the time she was able to get insurance, she was at stage four cervical cancer,” Cerese said.

Deanna underwent chemotherapy but did not survive.

“No woman should have stage four cervical cancer in America. It’s completely treatable if found early on. And so there was no need for that,” Cerese said.

A recent study by researchers with the American Cancer Society found cancer survival rates have increased in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage.

Expanded Medicare would also mean medical providers that don’t get compensated for treating many of the uninsured will start to be compensated. That’s something Cerese says will help all of us.

“Especially places like hospitals and federally qualified community health centers. They are seeing folks and not getting compensated and that’s leading to uncompensated care which is particularly harsh for our community and rural hospitals,” she said.

Cerese continued, “And so they are now going to be compensated if we expand Medicaid, they’ll have more people to actually be covered by insurance and so that uncompensated care will go down. The other thing is they’ll be able to treat their patients.”

“I can’t tell you how many providers I’ve spoken to that are just devastated because they can’t practice medicine the way they were trained because imaging is too expensive or the person can’t afford the prescription drugs that they need. So this is good news for providers,” she said.

For the measure to take place, both the state senate and house have to approve it and it would then go to the Governor’s desk. Governor Cooper has previously expressed support for Medicaid expansion.