RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Cancer survivors this week are urging Republicans in the state House of Representatives to expand Medicaid coverage in North Carolina now that Senate Republicans have reversed course and are backing a bill to do that.  

Earlier this month, the Senate almost unanimously passed a healthcare access bill that expands Medicaid coverage to about 600,000 mostly low-income people and makes a variety of other changes to health regulations.

The vote came after years of Republican Senate leaders opposing Medicaid expansion despite pleas from Democrats. 

North Carolina is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

Michael Morgan of Pilot Mountain came to Raleigh Tuesday to share his story and urge the House to take up the bill. 

About five years ago, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. In his mid-20s, he had just gone back to school at Appalachian State University and was “shocked” by the diagnosis. 

“This came up and rocked our world,” he said. It meant he would have to stop going to school, which meant he lost his health coverage. 

“During that, I did not have any insurance whatsoever,” he said.  

He said he didn’t tell his family at the time, but he questioned whether he should go forward with the treatment. 

“We didn’t know if things were going to go well. We didn’t know if the treatments were going to work. I was honestly thinking about forgoing treatment and living out the rest of my days just because of the financial burden it would place on my family,” he said. 

He eventually qualified for Medicaid coverage, which helped him cover the cost of treatments and saved his life. He worries about the people in the healthcare coverage gap who could face the same difficult decision he did.  

“I don’t want other people to go through the fight that I did,” he said. 

Following the Senate vote earlier this month, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore has said he doesn’t intend to bring the bill up for a vote in his chamber. 

“You think about issues like Medicaid expansion that have been issues that have been front and center that we’ve dealt with for years. To think that we can suddenly resolve that in a few weeks, that’s tough because there’s so many moving pieces,” he said. “And, the Senate of course has put in there some other items that have also been in controversy for quite a while.” 

The bill the Senate passed includes a variety of provisions Republicans say are aimed at increasing access to healthcare, some of which have been priorities for them for several years.

Those include: provisions to address surprise medical billing and transparency, giving advanced practice nurses greater ability to practice outside the supervision of a physician (known as the SAVE Act), certificate of need law reforms and telehealth regulations. 

Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who has advocated for Medicaid expansion for years, said he supports the Senate bill. 

“I’m encouraged that the Senate has passed the legislation. I know that it’ll be part of discussions that we have over the next few weeks,” he said. “Really it’s a yes or no issue. Are we going to take it, or are we not?” 

Moore said he remains concerned about whether the federal government will continue to cover 90 percent of the cost of expansion or if some of that cost could be shifted to the state. 

“Whenever we deal with it, whatever we do, I want to make sure that we get it right. It’s very important because that’s a significant impact on the state budget,” he said. “If we buy this thing, what do we own?” 

For his part, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) says he no longer has that concern.  

Moore said his primary focus in the remaining time lawmakers spend in Raleigh is to get an updated budget passed. Legislative leaders aim to adjourn before the 4th of July holiday. 

“We need to do a budget. We need to get that done. And, anything else we do, we do. And whatever we don’t, we don’t,” he said. 

Michael Morgan says he’s still pushing for the House to act.  

“We’re going to try to change their minds. People’s lives are on the line here. And, it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents,” he said. 

Following his treatments, he said he’s now doing well, married and working as a network engineer for a school district. 

On Wednesday, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network will hold a rally in Raleigh urging the state to expand Medicaid.