ALBEMARLE — As the 2019 long session of the N.C. General Assembly continues past its June budget deadline, Medicaid continues to be the main sticking point for both sides. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has insisted that the final budget agreement include an expansion of Medicaid, but Republicans, until now, have resisted that demand.
Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) co-sponsored a Republican bill, House Bill 655, which would expand Medicaid. The bill is not the clean expansion Democrats were hoping for, and some of those differences may make the initiative more palatable to other conservatives, especially those in the Senate, who have opposed any kind of expansion of the Medicaid program to able-bodied adults.
The bill language states that there will be no additional input from North Carolina taxpayers because funding will come from three sources: federal funding (which will cover 90%), a participant contribution of 2% of household income, and state funding drawn from “gross premiums tax, hospital assessments and intergovernmental transfers, as well as new revenue from an additional hospital assessment that the General Assembly intends to enact to meet the requirements of this act.”
“I support the bill, but I think I’d have felt a little better about it, and it would have been a lot easier to sell to our colleagues on the Senate side, if it we would have eased into it more,” Sasser said. “The estimate is somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people, and that’s a lot of people to provide health care for overnight.”
It’s unclear whether Cooper sees this version of Medicaid expansion as sufficient, but Sasser said he did hear that the House Democrats are going to go along with it.
“I think it’s a big enough step that it should get the governor’s attention, and it did get the House Democrats’ attention, but I don’t think it’s reasonable for them to assume we’re just going to go all in on Medicaid expansion,” Sasser said on the bill’s chances of breaking the budget deadlock.
If this version of Medicaid expansion is enough to get Cooper to agree to sign a budget, or enough to get legislative Democrats to join Republicans in overriding his veto, the remaining hurdle would be whether it goes too far for Senate Republicans, who may resist reversing on previous pledges not to expand Medicaid.