NC HEALTH REPORT: NC House, Senate will regret not accepting federal money for Medicaid expansion

February 27, 2013

With the backdrop of yet another Republican Governor – this time New Jersey’s Chris Christie – announcing this afternoon that yet another GOP-led state would take the federal money available under Obamacare to extend health coverage to more poor people under Medicaid, I watched our NC Senate and House soundly reject that same federal money this afternoon.

I imagine our own new Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, is going to be staring morosely into his cereal bowl tomorrow morning while wishing his fellow Republican chief executives weren’t making him look quite so bad.  After all, if eight states led by Republicans can manage to figure out how to accept billions of dollars from the federal government to expand health coverage for poor people, it is a question as to why North Carolina can’t seem to get its act together.  Every week North Carolina appears to be joining a smaller and seedier club, a group of states so craven as willing to sacrifice the health of millions of their own poorest citizens on the twin altars of political ambition and just plain contempt for people who make under $15,000 a year.

Really, how much more will it take?  It seems likely to me that Tennessee will take the federal dollars for Medicaid too.  That would leave us sandwiched in proudly with Georgia and, gulp, South Carolina, a state we used to point to as a poor second fiddle to the forward-thinking Tarheel state, but to whom we seem to be rushing to resemble as quickly as possible.

Every day, every new Republican Governor that accepts the federal money, every new media story with whatever new incomprehensible reason our political leaders can come up with to leave our poor without health coverage – these all just make me more and more convinced that Governor McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger have tickled the alligator just one scratch too far.  Sure, Berger is already trying to raise money off his opposition to Obamacare, and McCrory just seems to be trying to make the best out of a decision he was forced by Tillis and Berger to make, but not expanding coverage in the current environment just makes NC Republicans look pretty extreme.

I got a sense of this in the debates in the NC House and Senate this afternoon.  Democrats like Senator Josh Stein dominated the discussion. Republicans left their craziest and most disproven arguments at home and most were very, very quiet.  I didn’t interpret this as strategy on a final vote, but rather as dread.  They knew they were too far committed to vote against this crazy train, but as more and more of their fellow Republicans in other states are making the opposite decision before their very eyes, the thought of having to justify rejection of all these billions of dollars and, fundamentally, life itself to the folks back home was no doubt a sobering thought.

-- Adam Searing

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