Bell, McKissick call for Medicaid expansion
Two prominent Durham Democrats joined White House spokesmen on Monday in urging Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. General Assembly to reconsider their opposition to expanding Medicaid.
“Our residents are really missing out on opportunity here,” Mayor Bill Bell said, adding later that opponents of the expansion may well “see repercussions” at the ballot box in 2014.
Sen. Floyd McKissick joined Bell on the White House-organized conference call, and likewise criticized state leaders for rejecting expansion subsidies. He said the decisions will burden small hospitals that cannot afford to offer more care to the indigent.
“What you see is purely partisan politics intervening,” McKissick said. “There’s really no other rational explanation. Everybody understands these individuals don’t have care today and need care.”
Current estimates are that about 377,000 people in North Carolina would benefit if the state agreed to widen the income restrictions on Medicaid eligibility, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
But as McKissick noted, the issue is indeed a partisan one, as states led by Republican governors by and large have opted against expansion and in the process signal opposition to the federal government’s Affordable Care Act.
The states are involved because they administer and partly fund Medicaid.
The Affordable Care Act – more commonly known as “Obamacare” – included the promise the federal government would fund 100 percent of the cost of expanded benefits through 2016.
After that, states would pick up 10 percent of the cost.
McCrory and other senior North Carolina Republicans have voiced doubts about whether the federal government will hold up its end of the bargain, given its budget difficulties.
The governor has also voiced qualms about both the management and structure of the state’s Medicaid program.
But it’s clear that even were they to assume the feds will hold up their end, senior Republicans don’t want to spend the state’s money on expanded coverage.
N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr., R-Rockingham, in October said the added spending would crowd out other budget priorities. They singled out education, transportation and state-employee salaries as things that are more important.
A think tank bankrolled by the governor’s budget director, former state Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, has also argued that there aren’t enough doctors working in North Carolina who accept Medicaid to handle an influx of additional patients.
As McKissick noted, however, public- and private-sector hospital emergency rooms often serve as the treatment option of last resort for the indigent.
Affordable Care Act supporters argue that once the costs of that are taken into account, the Medicaid expansion is a net benefit to states.