RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Several physicians and nurses said Monday the North Carolina General Assembly's choice to cover more uninsured people through Medicaid should be a no-brainer because it will create jobs, save state money and make people healthier.
The medical professional spoke at a Legislative Building news conference a day before a House committee takes up a bill to prevent North Carolina from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul.
The measure, which passed the Senate last week, would block state government from covering an estimated 500,000 uninsured people through Medicaid and tells the federal government to build the state's online marketplace for health insurance.
The federal government will repay states all costs related to the expansion for three years, ultimately falling to 90 percent. Republicans contend they can't be assured the federal government will keep its word and instead be required to pay significantly more in a state Medicaid system they say is already struggling with overspending.
Dr. Charles van der Horst, an AIDS researcher at professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said it makes no sense to surrender $15 billion the federal government would pay for the expanded coverage. An outside consultant for the state Department of Health and Human Services said the expansion would generate 23,000 net jobs through 2021 and annual real disposable income of $1 billion.
"And what do you think the voters will say that we're turning this down?" Van Der Horst asked, adding Republican elected leaders in other states support the expansion. Without the expansion, North Carolina hospitals will continue to have pay for charity care in emergency rooms, the cost of which will keep getting passed along to patients with private insurance, he said.
"It's morally wrong to not expand Medicaid," said Dr. Mohan Chilukuri with Durham Family Medicine. "It fiscally doesn't make any sense."