BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Republican-led North Dakota House voted Wednesday to expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured residents of the state.
The chamber approved the measure 57-36. The House bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, as the Legislature heads to its mid-session break.
Several Republican lawmakers testified Wednesday that they don't like the federal Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama, including the plan to expand Medicaid. But the lawmakers said it's in the best interest of the state to accept it because of the potential for North Dakota residents to shoulder more costs if they didn't. Under the health care law, the federal government would cover the full cost of expanding Medicaid through 2016, with the state's contribution rising in stages to 10 percent.
Wednesday's debate on the North Dakota measure was among Republicans; Democrats remained silent on the House floor, a move some said privately was intentional as to not upset their GOP counterparts and lose valuable votes for the measure.
"I wish the whole thing was not before us," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo. "The Affordable Care Act — I quite honestly can't find anything affordable about it."
But Carlson told fellow lawmakers: "I think we have to go down this road, unfortunately."