RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina legislators on Wednesday renewed the four-year-long national dispute over whether the federal health overhaul law now being rolled out is a common-sense effort to hold down medical costs or a march toward socialized medicine.
The state House tentatively approved legislation that would refuse federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 500,000 low-income residents. The measure also leaves it to Washington to manage an online marketplace for private health insurance policies for those who now have the hardest time finding coverage.
The measure passed 75-39 along party lines. Republicans who want to limit the state's contact with President Barack Obama's health care law have a veto-proof majority. Final House approval is expected Thursday. The Senate passed an earlier version last week.
Democrats argued that the Republican governors of a half-dozen states have opted to expand Medicaid coverage which is scheduled to be paid 100 percent by the federal government between 2014 and 2016, then falling to 90 percent by 2020. Dollars of preventative care the Medicaid money would mean for people who now can't afford doctors would save thousands of dollars of emergency room treatment in the future, advocates said.
"Why are we turning this down?" asked Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake. "I think it's fear and loathing" of the federal law.
Republicans emphasized they were taking a stand against the overhaul law often nicknamed Obamacare that would prove too costly for states and nation alike.
"This is a financial Armageddon," said Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan.
Expanding Medicaid coverage "would simply build more dependency on government among a widely expanded segment of our citizens. It's simply another step toward the goal of socialized medicine controlled by the federal government," said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham,
Gov. Pat McCrory joined House Republicans on Tuesday by saying the federal government can't be counted on to pay almost all the costs for new Medicaid recipients in the future and that state Medicaid problems should be fixed before any expansion.
Medicaid provides health coverage for more than 1.5 million North Carolina residents — most of them poor children, older adults and the disabled. The program spends about $13 billion in state and federal funds.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio