House panel rejects Medicaid expansion in NC

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm •  Published: February 12, 2013
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Medicaid provides health coverage for more than 1.5 million North Carolina residents — most of them poor children, older adults and the disabled. The program spends about $13 billion in state and federal funds.

Expanding Medicaid would generate 23,000 new jobs in North Carolina through 2021 and increase disposable income by $1 billion a year statewide as doctors and hospitals increased hiring to meet higher demand for compensated treatment, an outside consultant for the state Department of Health and Human Services estimated.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Association for Retired Persons decried the House committee's vote. Medicaid expansion was needed "to help those who work hard, but still can't afford the medical coverage they need," AARP state director Doug Dickerson said.

McCrory also joined GOP lawmakers in saying North Carolina should wash its hands of running a health benefit exchange, an online marketplace for private health insurance for those who now have the hardest time finding coverage. Many of the policies sold would be government-subsidized. If North Carolina doesn't create an exchange, the federal government will run it.

"There has been a lack of preparation within state government during the past year to build necessary and reliable systems to implement a state exchange," McCrory's statement said.

The deadline for running a North Carolina-based exchange passed last year. States must tell federal officials by Friday if they will partner with Washington and locally run some functions like consumer help lines and making sure insurance policies sold on the exchange comply with federal rules.

After lawmakers last year failed to pass legislation creating an exchange, the Legislature directed the state's health and insurance agencies to keep working on the details. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine spent more than two years developing a detailed roadmap for operating an exchange with input from groups representing hospitals, doctors, consumers, foundations, and employers.

"To say we are not ready for a partnership exchange is deeply misleading. We are absolutely ready to run a partnership exchange," said Adam Linker, a policy analyst with the Health Access Coalition, part of the liberal-leaning North Carolina Justice Center.

McCrory's spokeswoman did not respond to a request for clarification of the governor's statement.

McCrory and GOP lawmakers including House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, held out the possibility that North Carolina could expand Medicaid or operate a state-based health exchange in the future if conditions change.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio



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