Craven County DSS sees ‘staggering’ increase in Medicaid applications

Craven County Department of Social Services

Following North Carolina’s Medicaid expansion that went into effect Dec. 1, Craven County’s Department of Social Services has seen a nearly 100% increase in applications, according to DSS Director Geoffrey Marett. 

Marett said the numbers were “quite staggering” compared to the same time last year. Craven County DSS staff took a total of 604 applications in December 2022 as compared to 1,1090 in December 2023, a 97% increase, he noted.

Marett said the vast majority of those new applications were for adult Medicaid services, with 537 new applications compared to December of last year. 

“That’s probably a result of the federally facilitated marketplace being open as well, but it’s kind of showing us what we thought, that a majority of people who are going to be applying for Medicaid and being determined eligible for Medicaid are going to be those that are without children,” Marett told the Board of Commissioners during their Jan. 3 meeting.

Marett said the local numbers for pending Medicaid applications, those that they’ve already taken and are in the eligibility process, were just as startling. 

“I looked at the numbers from last year, which was our first business day report after the new year holiday, and we had 517 pending applications then and as of Jan. 2 (2024) we had 1,134, a 119% increase,” he said.

Marett said surrounding counties have seen similar numbers since the Medicaid expansion began. Pitt County saw a 113% increase, Carteret 209%, Beaufort 77%, and Lenoir a 140% increase. Looking at the state’s more urban counties, Mecklenburg had a 109% increase, Wake 150%, and Forsythe 190%. 

Marett said he will be looking at the county’s Medicaid application numbers several times a month.

“We want to serve the citizens the best we can. These are not normal times, but we are working as hard as we can,” he commented. “We’re in the same boat as every other DSS, we’re just getting inundated with applications and we’re going to try to work through those as expediently as possible.”

North Carolina is the 41st state to expand Medicaid to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, with the move included in the state’s 2023-24 fiscal budget. According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, more than 600,000 people in North Carolina are newly eligible for Medicaid under the expanded eligibility rules. Approximately 300,000 residents who were receiving limited Medicaid Family Planning benefits have now been enrolled to receive full coverage through NC Medicaid.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand Medicaid coverage to more adults with low incomes and to access an enhanced federal matching rate (FMAP) for their expansion populations. In addition to the enhanced FMAP, North Carolina will receive an estimated $1.63 billion in federal funding through the two-year American Rescue Plan fiscal incentive.

Craven County residents can apply in person at Craven County DSS, located at 2818 Neuse Blvd., New Bern, or over the phone by calling 252-636-4900. Applications can also be downloaded, filled out and then mailed, emailed, faxed or brought back to DSS. 

Residents can also apply for Medicaid online through ePass, the state’s secure self-service website, at

For more information, visit

In other local Medicaid-related news, CarolinaEast Medical Center is currently renegotiating contracts with UnitedHealthcare and Aetna insurance companies, which could result in changes to in-network insurance coverages. According to the CarolinaEast Health System website, if contract terms cannot be reached, UnitedHealthcare (Commercial, Community Plan (Medicaid) and Medicare Advantage plans), as well as Aetna (Medicare Advantage only) may be considered out-of-network for patients of CarolinaEast Medical Center as of April 1.

CarolinaEast Physicians will remain in-network for outpatient clinic office visits, the website states.

When contacted for an update on where the negotiations currently stand, Chelsea Robinson, public relations specialist for CarolinaEast Health System, said after speaking with the CarolinaEast Leadership team she had been informed that the renegotiating process was ongoing.

“We have until 4/1/2024 to finalize those negotiations,” Robinson wrote in an email response. “We will be sure to provide any additional updates as they become available.”

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.