NC- Lawmakers: House unlikely to take up Medicaid legislation

MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: less than a week until the session ends, and the NC house hasn’t even brought it up in committee.


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Two area state representatives doubt the state House will act on expanding Medicaid coverage during the short session of the General Assembly that is expected to end July 1.

The state Senate overwhelming voted earlier this month to expand Medicaid in the state but state Rep. Howard Hunter, D-Hertford, and Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, both said Monday they don’t know if the House will follow suit.

The Senate voted to expand Medicaid on a bipartisan 44-2 vote with only two Republicans voting no. One of the no votes came from state Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico.

Sanderson will represent Pasquotank, Perquimans and Chowan and five other counties in the next legislature after defeating state Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, in the GOP primary in May for the newly configured District 1 seat. Steinburg voted for the Medicaid expansion bill.

Sanderson did not return either phone or text messages seeking comment about his vote.

The federal government would cover 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion, with the other 10% being covered by an assessment levied on state hospitals.

If Medicaid expansion is approved it would likely cover an additional 500,000 to 600,000 people, many of them workers with one or two low-paying jobs who make incomes that hover just around the poverty line.

Republicans hold a 69-51 majority in the House and Hunter is not sure if there is enough GOP support to move the legislation forward. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has long favored expanding Medicaid.

Hunter favors expansion and is confident that the entire House Democratic caucus also supports the Senate bill. Hunter said having the federal government pay for 90% of the cost makes it affordable for the state. North Carolina is one of 13 states that has not expanded Medicaid.

Hunter, however, said no House committee has held hearings on the legislation since it passed June 1.

“I’m behind Medicaid expansion 100 percent,” Hunter said. “It will be a great benefit to any rural area in the state. I doubt it will be taken up (by the House) in the short session. If it hasn’t been heard in committee by now, I doubt we will hear it. I don’t think there is enough support on the Republican side.”

Hanig said he likes some parts of the Senate Medicaid bill but is opposed to other parts that he “just can’t get behind.”

“It needs work and I think those negotiations will continue this week,” Hanig said. “We are still in discussions whether to take it up in the House. Still lots of room for improvement in the bill. We feel we have another solution and we will continue those negotiations.”

Hanig did not elaborate Monday on what parts he supports and opposes, saying he did not have the legislation in front of him.

“I don’t have it in front of me and it would be hard to speak to it without having it in front of me,” Hanig said.

A spokesperson for Sentara Albemarle Medical Center said it supports Medicaid expansion saying the hospital has been advocating for expansion for many years.

“Expanding Medicaid would support our mission to improve health every day by increasing access to preventive and routine care,” said spokesperson Randi Camaiore. “It would enhance opportunities for our community members, many who are hardworking individuals like famers, veterans, clergy and service industry workers before they need of emergency care or have higher acuity health needs. Medicaid expansion can improve the health of North Carolinians by increasing early detection for cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.”

Hunter and Hanig are also not sure if the House will take up the controversial Parents Bill of Rights legislation that passed the GOP-controlled Senate almost entirely along party lines. Hunter opposes the legislation while Hanig supports it.

Some of the language in the legislation states that gender identity and sexual orientation may not be a part of the official curriculum until after third grade.

The legislation would also establish a parent’s right to request information about what their child is being taught in school, including lessons and textbooks and other information about how their child and their school are operating.

Hanig supports the bill because he said that parents have a right to know what their children are being taught in school.

“I feel that parents know what is best for their children,” Hanig said.

The GOP-controlled Senate passed the bill 28-18 with all Republicans and one Democrat supporting the measure. Because Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has promised to veto the measure, the GOP-controlled House would need the support of at least three Democrats to have enough votes to override a veto.

Hanig said he wasn’t sure if the House would vote on the bill in the short session while noting a lack of Democratic support so far for the legislation. He said GOP leaders may focus on other issues, including getting the state budget finalized, in the final days of the short session.

“The amount of effort it would take to get it passed and then have it vetoed just doesn’t do us any good,” Hanig said. “I believe the current sentiment is to get the budget passed. We want to concentrate on what we can get across the finish line (in the short session).”

The Senate-approved Parents Bill of Rights legislation must first pass through several House committees, including the Rules Committee of which Hunter is a member.

“It hasn’t come before us,” Hunter said. “If it comes up it will probably be a party-line vote.”

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