Donnie Lambeth

The chambers of the NC State House
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

The North Carolina House and Senate approved on Tuesday afternoon a long-awaited plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid system. The proposal could affect more than 1.5 million people who receive health care through the publicly-funded program, but it could take years for it to be fully implemented.

Top Republicans celebrated on Tuesday as they passed a proposal they've been working on for four years. Medicaid serves about 1.8 million people who qualify as low-income or disabled, almost one fifth of the state population.

About 1.8 million people in North Carolina receive healthcare through Medicaid. The program provides for those who are low income and is funded by federal and state dollars.

A recent state audit found that the organization overseeing most Medicaid patients has saved taxpayers more than a billion dollars since 2002. Still, state lawmakers have been poised for years to overhaul the system, and it appears now that a deal is close.