MM Curator summary
[MM Curator Summary]: The committee looking at expansion will not release its report until after the legislative session, but will release it before the gubernatorial election.
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By Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporter
Key Republican leaders on Tuesday said to watch for an up-or-down vote on a potential Medicaid expansion deal before the November elections.
That doesn’t mean North Carolina, one of 12 U.S. states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid, will take the leap more than a decade after federal funding became available for the expanded health insurance program. But the prospects may be better than ever after years during which the proposal was a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Medicaid expansion would add hundreds of thousands of people, many of them the working poor, to the taxpayer-funded health insurance program that currently serves roughly 2 million people in North Carolina, most of them children, pregnant women, seniors citizens and people with disabilities.
Democrats have advocated for the expansion in an effort to close a health insurance coverage gap. Republicans, however, have long expressed concerns about how much it would cost taxpayers.
A joint House-Senate committee studying the issue is scheduled to hold its first meeting Friday. The committee may submit an expansion plan to the full General Assembly later this year.
“It depends what the substance of the measure is, but I think there’s a pathway,” Senate leader
said Tuesday, adding that any vote would likely come before the November elections.
State Rep. Donny Lambeth , the committee’s co-chair and a long-time proponent for some sort of expansion plan, said Tuesday that one of the first things the committee will do is ask to push back its timetable.
The state budget, which created the committee, called on the group to present its findings before the 2022 legislative session begins. Lambeth, R-Forsyth, said it probably will take “into the summer and fall” for the group to complete its work.
Lambeth also said he’d like whatever the committee comes up with to come before the full General Assembly before the November elections, with implementation of any expansion approved in January.
“I think it’s possible for January,” Lambeth said. “That’s my goal.”
Democrats, including Gov. Roy Cooper, have pushed expansion for years, and at times there has been Republican support at the statehouse. Lambeth helped lead an effort in the North Carolina House to pass a compromise version that would have included work requirements for recipients. The plan didn’t have enough support in the state Senate, though, and it fell apart after the courts struck down work requirements.
Last year Senate Republicans seemed to be on board, but there wasn’t enough support in the House. A new enticement from the federal government—an extra $1.7 billion or more from the federal government for states that expand now—has helped boost support.
What a successful proposal would look like this year remains to be seen. Neal Inman, the chief of staff for Speaker of the House Tim Moore , said last week that there are “no predetermined outcomes” for the study committee, and any plan would have to overcome Republican concerns that it would put too many people on government health insurance.
Sen. Jim Burgin , R-Harnett, noted during a separate health committee meeting Tuesday that adding several hundred thousand people to the state’s Medicaid rolls would mean a third of the state’s population relies on Medicaid.
“Is a third of our population on Medicaid going to be sustainable in the long term?” he said.