RALEIGH — Despite last-minute objections from Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican-led state Senate pushed through legislation Monday evening that will prevent nearly 650,000 residents from getting health insurance and block the state from establishing a health care exchange.
The GOP supermajority used the 31-17 vote to send a message to the federal government that it wants no part of the health care law signed by President Barack Obama, even as other states led by Republicans are accepting the money.
Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the measure tells Washington, “if you want to do it, do it the way you want to do it and leave us out of the equation.”
Hours before the vote, McCrory’s administration expressed caution about moving too swiftly, given the unknown financial ramifications. The Republican governor is worried that the legislation may threaten money for the current system that tracks the state’s Medicaid patients, according to a letter his administration sent to Senate leaders.
“We believe additional time is necessary to evaluate the serious financial ramifications of Senate Bill 4 to North Carolina taxpayers,” wrote Fred Steen, the governor’s chief lobbyist.
This is what I was afraid of when NC voters decided to put a bunch of ideologues and Tea Partiers into the state legislature. Over a half-million NC residents are expected to take advantage of expanded Medicaid coverage.
A recent non-partisan study determined that the expansion would save the state money and save jobs that were threatened by recent budget cuts. The Federal government would cover the costs of the expansion 100 percent for the first three years, then 90 percent thereafter. The expansion would decrease the great burden hospitals bear by treating the uninsured in emergency rooms.
Despite the inescapable logic of math and the highly desirable outcome of better healthcare for more people, the GOP-dominated legislature prefers to play politics with people’s lives. The monies that NC turns down will go to other states that are accepting the help, including Republican-led states. So far, the red states Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan and Ohio haved joined wag-of-the finger extremist Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona in accepting billions of dollars in new revenue to bolster their Medicaid funding.
NC, in my lifetime, has been one of the more moderate states in the south, Jesse Helms notwithstanding. But in the last couple of years, Amendment One and this current POS bill have shown that NC is heading into a different, more intolerant, more backward direction. Let’s hope Pat McCrory can figure out how to steer this motley crew of fools.