COVID-19, News

House Health care bill on fast-track as legislative session begins in Raleigh

A bill with a raft of measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina is on a fast-track and could be voted on by the full House as early as Thursday.

The House Health Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1037 Tuesday in a meeting attending video conference by most members. The bill funds a temporary Medicaid expansion for testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients, allocates $25 million to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services for lab work, rural health and other response related to the coronavirus. It also provides $25 million for behavioral health, including the delivery of telehealth services.

The bill now moves to Wednesday’s meeting of the Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House. If reported favorably out of that committee, it could see a full House vote Thursday.

A separate funding bill crafted by the House Select Committee on COVID-19’s Health Care work group will be in the Appropriations committee Wednesday and is expected to get a floor vote Thursday.

House members have been crafting bills for weeks in a series of committee meetings held via video and teleconference. The Senate has held no such public committee meetings but still plans to hold committee meetings Wednesday and may take a floor vote that

Rep. Carla Cunningham during Tuesday’s video conference meeting of the N.C. House Health Committee.

day as well. It is unclear how that chamber’s legislation has been crafted.

“We view this as a phase one bill,” Rep. Donnie Lambeth (R-Forsyth) said Tuesday.

A second policy and funding bill will likely be filed in May, Lambeth said, and the committee will continue to meet and listen to health experts and front-line medical workers on what they need and how the General Assembly can help.

Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg) praised the work of her fellow committee members and staff in getting the bill in shape and ready for a vote the last few weeks under difficult circumstances.

“We have done a lot of work and we did have some main principles we started out with,” Cunningham said. “Mine was that we remain consistent throughout the whole policy. I think we did a great job.”

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