NC lawmakers vote to bar Medicaid expansion

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013
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Medicaid currently 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.

A study by a consultant hired by the state Department of Health and Human Services estimated 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.

In addition to lost federal revenue, a review by the legislature's own fiscal research staff released this week said the costs of the state not running its own health care exchange will be higher than lawmakers were originally told. It is now estimated it will cost North Carolina $46 million to develop link its computer systems to the federally-run exchange.

Earlier this month, 73 medical and community groups signed a letter urging McCrory to reconsider their opposition to Medicaid expansion, including AARP North Carolina, the North Carolina Council of Churches, the N.C. Pediatric Society and Duke University Health System.

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said that the soaring costs of Medicaid are unsustainable, and that expanding the rolls of those eligible would inevitably lead to cuts in other areas of the state budget, such as education and public safety. If not expanding Medicaid turns out to be a mistake for North Carolina, he said, then the state can simply change course at some point in the future.

"We're being prudent," Brown said of the Republicans. "There's nothing in the bill that says we can't get in the game at a later date."