House gives final OK to Medicaid, 'red route' bills

Posted February 14, 2013

— The state House on Thursday sent bills to the Senate that would block an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and allow transportation planners to study a controversial highway proposed in Garner.

The House voted 75-42 to give final approval to Senate Bill 4. The Senate needs to agree to a minor change before sending the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said he plans to sign it.

"We've had what seems to be a concerted attack on the unemployed, uninsured and now even the poor," House Minority Leader Larry Hall said. "Are we letting politics get in the way of helping our citizens?"

Hall, D-Durham, unsuccessfully tried to send the bill back to a committee for further study and refinement.

The Medicaid expansion would cover about 500,000 low-income adults in North Carolina, providing them the insurance coverage required when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented next year. The federal government would pick up the full cost of the expansion for the first three years and the bulk of the costs for several years after that.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, quoted the poem "The Spider and the Fly," saying that North Carolina's budget could end up getting eaten by what looks like an attractive offer from the government.

"Once again, this body has been cast in just a difficult situation because of the make-up of the health care law and the make-up of our politics today. You're left again (with a choice of) are you going to drink cyanide, or are you going to drink arsenic," Blust said.

"Either you have to take the money and take the very big risk that everything isn't going to be paid for in the future, or you can turn the money down and hear some of the stories (of people suffering without health coverage)," he said.

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Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said there are too many unanswered questions about how the Affordable Care Act will operate for North Carolina to move forward on it.

The bill also prevents the state from creating an online health exchange to allow people who don't have employer-sponsored health coverage to shop around for their own insurance. Without state support, state residents would have to use a planned federal health exchange.

Advocates said expanding Medicaid would bring a projected $15 billion into the state’s economy, creating an estimated 25,000 jobs in health care and related sectors by 2016.

"The whole idea that we can create jobs through this, to me, is hogwash," said Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, saying it was "irresponsible" to take federal money in an effort to create jobs.

Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, said lawmakers also should send federal transportation and education money back to Washington, D.C., if they turn their backs on the Medicaid money.

"Better to have health care for three years than to not have it at all," Earle said.

'Red route' back on table

Also Thursday, the House voted 87-29 to approve House Bill 10, which repeals a 2011 law that prohibited the state Department of Transportation from considering the so-called "red route" for N.C. Highway 540.

Wake County leaders have planned for years for an N.C. 540 corridor that would take the highway south of Garner. But federal officials insisted on studying alternatives, including the red route, which would take the highway through the middle of town.

Because of the 2011 law, federal transportation officials cut off planning funds needed to complete N.C. 540, saying the state was no longer in compliance with environmental regulations for the project.

Dollar said the state has already invested too much money in the highway to jeopardize its completion by refusing to follow federal guidelines.

"If for some bizarre reason the red route were to come back as the only possible route, we would not build it," he said.

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said the study would be pointless because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already decided that the red route would be less environmentally damaging than the preferred "orange route."

"They’re going to tell us, 'Hey guys, you guys got to build the red route, and that’s going to be a waste of $15 million and four years for the town of Garner," Jackson said.

Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said the cost of the study will be $1 million, not $15 million and that federal environmental laws don't dictate the location of highways.

"If it comes back that it is less environmentally damaging to build the red route than the orange route, that does not mean that we have to build the red route," Brawley said.


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  • junkmail5 Feb 15, 2013

    One of five NCarolinians are on Medicaid now. The cost is $15 billion for the 105,000- djofraleigh

    You're suggesting there's only 525,000 people in North Carolina?

    (105,000 times 5)

    there's actually just under 10 million in the state, which would require almost 2 million to be on medicaid for it to be 1 in 5.

    15 billion divided by 2 million would be $7500 per person BTW.

    So you might want to revisit your math somewhere in there, but it doesn't add up at all.

  • djofraleigh Feb 15, 2013

    (GOP) goal of limiting Perdue to a single term --- COMMENT

    Obama rightly wanted Bev off the ticket in 2012, and got it. Bev would have been a great spending governor in times of plenty, but she was a terrible leader during cut back times.

  • djofraleigh Feb 15, 2013

    One of five NCarolinians are on Medicaid now. The cost is $15 billion for the 105,000, or about $88,000 per person, and the past years lack of proper oversight is in the news weekly, so maybe the state should let the Feds run the program. One thing the republicans are right on is that we can't trust an unfunded semi-promise of the feds since come March 1st they are probably going to cut across the board and will probably not pay as promised to get NC aboard. Politicians will, in the end, take the money. The Dems are going to have to propose more deals.

  • unc70 Feb 15, 2013

    The group receiving the largest percentage of Medicaid dollars are the elderly on Social Security, forced into "poverty" by the cost of nursing home care and such. Medicaid then becomes responsible for the cost of their care. Before Medicaid, their mostly middle-class children and other family would have become responsible for those costs.

  • unc70 Feb 15, 2013

    They seem in a huge rush to reject Obamacare, reduce the amount and duration of unemployment insurance (and senselessly reject the temporary extension of benefits -- Federally funded as part of the stimulus package and expected to expire without renewal as the economy recovers), and punish in turn various groups they (often mistakenly) believe are "underserving" or fraudulently receiving government benefits, and to enact every possible bill supported by the Koch brothers, ALEC, AFP, the oil and gas industry, private health insurers, and the opponents of environmental and other regulation, of public education at all levels, of our futures -- and squandering much of our collective shared heritage, work, sacrifice, and investment by generations of our People these past 350 years. Shame.

    In 1960, NC was with MS, AR at the bottom in nearly every measure -- poverty, health, education. Watch film "Change Comes Knocking". NC poverty rate from highest to 26th, now up to 12th among states.

  • junkmail5 Feb 15, 2013

    SS is only taxed if you make more than $25,000 a year.

    The majority of folks on SS get less than that in benefits... so you'd only be taxed if you had additional income.

  • bmac813 Feb 15, 2013

    Medicaid, Who get Medicaid, People who don't pay into the System. I paid into Social Security all my working Days and when I collect Medicare I still Have to pay PLUS I have to buy more Insurance to cover what Medicare Doesn't Cover. And than I get Taxes on what SS I do Get, Even though SS is a Tax. Don't make sence to me.

  • kermit60 Feb 15, 2013

    15 billion would create jobs? Which 15 billion is that, the one borrowed and added to our 16.5 trillion dollar debt or 15 billion more in taxes taken from the workers in this state? Larry Hall said. "Are we letting politics get in the way of helping our citizens?" My question is what are these people doing to help themselves besides collecting free stuff for doing nothing?

  • unc70 Feb 15, 2013

    Jeff, last year the legislature was also a GOP majority in each house. So why do you think this year is a refreshing change?

    The GOP members of the legislature spent the past four years, particularly the last two years, primarily focused on crippling the effectiveness of NC State government with the one goal, publicly stated, of limiting Perdue to a single term and electing McCrory. While a similar strategy failed nationally, it succeeded in NC. So what is now the goal of the GOP-controlled NC legislature, courts, and governor?

    I had hoped for some level of pragmatic competency from McCrory, more like his image as Mayor and not as candidate McCrory. Previous governors since Kerr Scott, Dem and Repub, have been reasonably competent stewards of that which we entrusted to them. They have all been fiscally conservative, business "progressives", with varying amounts of populism and social/religious conservatism. Now what?

  • oleguy Feb 15, 2013

    Look where land has been bought up By politicans, and track the road,,,Someone bought several tracks of land?