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The weekend’s top editorials: ‘Right thing to do’ would be for Republicans to pass Medicaid expansion this year

Senate President Phil Berger

A common theme for the state’s editorial boards this weekend was the GOP’s stubborn failure to act on Medicaid expansion this year.

Back in June, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told his colleagues that expansion was “the right thing to do, and it’s not even close.”

But then Republican leaders wanted to wait until after the midterm election.

After the election, Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore signaled they would wait until the new year to tackle expansion.

“I don’t disagree that waiting until next year is the right thing to do,” Berger told reporters the day after the November 8th elections.

Capitol Broadcasting Company notes in its Monday opinion piece:

The costs have been staggering – as many as 14,700 lives — of those unable to get the care they needed — have been lost; 230,000 diabetics have not been able to get the life-sustaining medications they require; 107,500 mammograms missed.

And, particularly for politicians who brag of frugality and job growth, the state has missed out on $17.44 billion in federal funds. That is money North Carolina taxpayers already send to Washington that’s paying more than 90% of the Medicaid expansion costs in 39 other states and Washington, DC.

In North Carolina, Medicaid expansion is more about antipathy toward former President Barack Obama than it is a partisan matter. GOP strongholds like Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky have all expanded Medicaid. It is widely supported. In September, the Emerson College Poll found 57% of the state’s voters back Medicaid expansion and just 18% oppose it.

Medicaid expansion is a job-creating force – and North Carolina’s failure to act has cost the state nearly 120,000 jobs.

If Berger believes he can take credit for all the advances the state has made – he too must take responsibility for the devastation that has befallen families because they haven’t been able to get the critical – and often life-saving – health care they’ve needed.

The Raleigh News & Observer describes how the GOP’s continued inaction is harming hospitals, especially rural ones, that would benefit from the federal infusion of cash. Associate opinion editor Ned Barnett writes:

To encourage holdout states to expand, the Biden administration has offered to boost the federal share of all those states’ total Medicaid costs by 5 percent for three years. In North Carolina, that incentive would be worth $1.7 billion. The cost to the state of expanding would be $700 million. That means North Carolina could have an extra $1 billion to spend on other needs. Yet it remains among the dwindling number of holdout states.

But the longer the delay, the more the risk of losing momentum. An agreement on CON changes may not be reachable, or a majority of lawmakers may insist on linking Medicaid expansion to work requirements for the newly eligible, which the Biden administration won’t approve. Lives are at stake. The legislature should act on its first opportunity to expand Medicaid without the complications of CON concerns. Financially and morally, expanding Medicaid now, as Berger once said, “is the right thing to do.”

Read the N&O’s full editorial here.

North Carolina remains among only a handful of states that have yet to expand Medicaid.  Even in very conservative states like South Dakota, a majority of voters approved Medicaid expansion in November through a constitutional amendment.

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The weekend’s top editorials: ‘Right thing to do’ would be for Republicans to pass Medicaid expansion this year