Commentary

Encouraging crack in the facade: GOP lawmaker proposes Medicaid expansion for NC

House Bill 662 lead sponsor Rep. Donny Lambeth

The bill is inadequate. It bears some resemblances to “Pence-care” — the watered down Medicaid expansion law that the nation’s embarrassingly hypocritical Vice President ushered in while serving as Governor of Indiana. And yet, House Bill 662 is an enormously hopeful development in the slow but sure process of North Carolina conservatives realizing that they must embrace the central provisions of the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare.

As Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported over the weekend:

“Four Republicans in the state House have filed a bill to extend Medicaid health-insurance coverage to more adults, and to charge hospitals to help pay for it.

It’s the first time prominent North Carolina Republican legislators have sought to add adults who now don’t qualify to the government health insurance program.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act provided that option – removing millions from the ranks of the uninsured – but North Carolina under Republican control has been among the holdouts. GOP political leaders have been skeptical of whether the federal government would follow through on its promise to cover the bulk of the costs, and have demanded reforms to how money is spent before expansion.”

The near-term prospects for the bill remain cloudy at best, given the ideologues who still hold sway in the GOP caucuses on Jones Street. But the introduction of this bill is an important crack nonetheless in the facade of the right-wing power structure that’s controlled state government so long. It’s a reminder that if the leaders of the House and Senate would actually try to work with Democrats, rather than crush them, the state might actually be able to make some progress. Let’s hope more cracks and fissures continue to form in the days ahead.

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