The last time Republican legislators considered, or rather refused to consider, expansion of Medicaid to cover more North Carolinians of low income, the excuse was that the system was “broken” in the words of Gov. Pat McCrory. Now, with McCrory’s own top health officer saying Medicaid has improved and expansion could be considered, Republican legislators apparently are standing firm against it.
Medicaid is a federal/state health plan for poor children and pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the federal government offered states the chance to expand the program to more people, with the federal government picking up all the costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter.
But some states, mostly Republican and Southern ones, rejected the idea out of political hatred for “Obamacare.” In North Carolina, that extreme view means that 300,000 to 500,000 people continue to struggle who might have been eligible. With McCrory apparently softening and Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos saying Medicaid is in a surplus, the reason for not expanding – and getting tens of millions of dollars in federal help along with thousands of new jobs – seems simple enough: Obama still is distrusted by GOP legislators.
Cary Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Republican budget-writer, says expansion is unlikely because Congress may try to make changes in Obamacare and state lawmakers may alter the way the Medicaid program is run. Those are excuses mired in small-minded political motives. Phil Berger, the GOP’s state Senate president pro tem, isn’t changing his opposition to expansion, his office says.
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How sad it is that literally hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will go without health insurance because Republicans don’t like the president. To vent that anger, they continue to be willing to hurt their own constituents.