RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As lawmakers attempt to wrap up the legislative session this week, the state Senate’s top Republican said there doesn’t appear to be a “pathway at this point at this point for us to reach an agreement” on expanding Medicaid coverage.
Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said his chamber would not take up a bill the House passed earlier this week that calls for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to try to negotiate an agreement with the federal government first and then hold a vote in the General Assembly in December.
“I don’t know that anybody can look at that and say the House has taken any substantive action in connection with expanding Medicaid,” said Berger. “There’s no need to study this anymore. It’s time for action.”
The Senate passed a bill at the beginning of June to expand Medicaid coverage to about 600,000 mostly low-income people and make a variety of other changes to health regulations.
Republican House Speaker Tim (R-Cleveland) refused to bring that to the floor for a vote, saying some of the provisions are controversial and that a majority of his party’s members still don’t support moving forward now with expansion. Some remain concerned about whether the state will be able to continue affording its share and the long-term sustainability.
Moore pitched the bill the House passed as a way for Republicans to get assurances first about the long-term cost to the state before holding a vote.
Earlier this week, Gov. Cooper urged the legislature to find a resolution. Medicaid expansion has been a priority of his for years. Republicans agreed not to include Medicaid expansion in the budget, which they plan to pass this week, saying it needs to be handled as a separate issue.
“I’m encouraged that both the House and Senate agree that North Carolina needs to expand Medicaid. It is imperative that an agreement is reached to get this done now. I will review the full budget when it is released,” Cooper said.
Supporters of expansion are urging the General Assembly to act, noting that the federal government has offered additional money to the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid. For North Carolina, that would mean $1.5 billion up front.
Sheveil Harmon, who lives in Angier, is among the people who would benefit if state leaders approved this change.
She’s a single mom of a 7-year-old son who qualifies for Medicaid, but she herself does not. She makes too much money to be eligible, but at the same time she doesn’t make enough to afford to buy insurance.
“You’re on the edge of your seat,” she said about watching the developments in the legislature the last few weeks.
Harmon was diagnosed with cancer when she was 11 years old. She says she’s doing well now and assumes the cancer has not returned. However, she can’t be certain of that because she can’t afford to get regular checkups.
“Checkups and things like that in terms of where I am now almost 15 years later is not something that happens because I don’t have health insurance. And, the scans and things like that that go along with it are just so astronomically expensive, I just don’t do it,” she said.
She’s concerned about what would happen if she has a major medical issue.
“What’s going to happen to me where I have to be hospitalized? Is it going to be a situation where I’m out for an extended period of time? I lose my home? There’s a lot of loss that comes along with it aside from just being sick,” she said. “I don’t like to think of myself as somebody that’s underserving of this. I work hard. I balance and juggle a lot. And, there are a lot of people like me.”