Editorial: Legislators need to talk with, not fight, Gov. Cooper on Medicaid expansion

Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 -- Republican legislators' objections to expanding Medicaid are partisan, not practical. Rather than play politics, they should be working with the governor to develop a consensus program to expand health care coverage to those who now are least able to get it.

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Medicaid die-in
A CBC Editorial: Friday, Jan. 13, 2017; Editorial# 8110
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

We remain baffled why North Carolina’s Republicans in the Legislature refuse to expand Medicaid. It is mean and irresponsible to deny 500,000 needy North Carolinians health care.

The irony is that the same legislators who are blocking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s efforts to join the program represent the very areas and people who would most benefit. These are largely rural parts of North Carolina, like state Senate boss Phil Berger’s Rockingham County, where the need is the greatest and where the program’s benefits would reach well beyond any individuals’ health.

In a knee-jerk screed, Berger called Cooper’s effort “massive budget-busting,” even though it would not use one penny of state funds. All this from the same guy who a few days later declared that the state’s leaders needed to “remember all that we can accomplish when we work together.” He must have forgotten the “on what I want you to do” part at the end of that sentence.

It is time that Berger and his fellow Republicans removed their partisan blinders, abandoned their reflexive dismissiveness and started to consider that Cooper might have a good idea – or one that is at least worthy of consideration and discussion.

Cooper has asked the Obama administration to allow North Carolina to take part in Medicaid expansion. He’s put together a creative plan that would answer many of the previous concerns expressed by the GOP naysayers.

The governor’s plan brings private business into the game. It would side-step paying the state’s portion with tax money and raise the required state match from the state’s hospitals. Those hospitals now spend about $1 billion to care for those who cannot afford to pay for medical treatment –much more than the estimated local contribution for Medicaid expansion.

It’s no surprise that the state’s hospital association and medical society have indicated their support for such a plan.

So what is imprudent about investing about $100 to $150 million a year to receive $3 to $4 billion to provide health care to North Carolina’s poor and disabled? What’s imprudent about creating an estimated 23,000 new jobs that the funding would generate along with a $1.7 billion additional boost to the state’s economy?

The answer to all those questions is clear – nothing. But our legislative leaders don’t seem to care.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Berger have written to federal authorities asking them to turn down Cooper’s request.

At the opening of the new legislative session, as Berger laid out his agenda, he chastised those who “only want to focus on what divides us, what draws the most campaign contributions and what attracts the most free press attention and what is sensational enough to sell the most newspapers and TV advertisements.”

He might look in the mirror.

If Berger and his allies are truly interested in reaching out and being more inclusive they will stop placing impediments in Cooper’s way. Instead, they need to invite Cooper to present his plan to legislators and work together in open, thoughtful discussions to extend health care to all those who lack it.


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