NC House Republicans file bill to expand Medicaid – News & Observer

Republicans in the state House have filed a bill to extend Medicaid health care coverage to more adults, and to use assessments on hospitals to help pay for it.

This is the first time that prominent Republicans have sought to add adults who now don’t qualify to the government health insurance program.

Under the bill, adults whose incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level would qualify. They would have to pay annual premiums equal to 2 percent of their household income. In most cases, adults would have to be working or “engaged in activities that promote employment” to be eligible for the coverage.

Medicaid is the government insurance program for poor, elderly and disabled people. Most of the poor residents covered are children. Most low-income adults younger than 65 don’t qualify.

An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people would gain health coverage if the state expanded Medicaid without conditions. It is unclear how many adults would gain coverage under the new bill.

The state and federal government currently cover Medicaid costs. Under the bill, assessments on hospitals would cover the state’s share of the expansion costs.

Three of the House Health Committee chairmen are co-sponsors: Reps. Donny Lambeth of Winston-Salem, Greg Murphy of Greenville and Josh Dobson of McDowell County. Rep. Donna White of Clayton is the fourth sponsor. Lambeth is a former hospital administrator, Murphy is a medical doctor, and White is a nurse.

Murphy and Dobson referred questions about the bill to Lambeth.

“I want to do whatever I can to increase access to care for rural areas of our state, “ Dobson said. “I believe the bill will do that.”

Lambeth could not be reached Friday. A news conference on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

White, who worked as a public health nurse before coming to the legislatures, said the bill is not a Medicaid expansion, but a way for low-income adults to buy health insurance.

“It’s not a Medicaid program,” she said. “It’s an opporunity for the working poor to buy their insurance at a reduced rate.”

The bill proposes the program will be called Carolina Cares, and its based on the Indiana plan that requires

The federal government has to approve requests to change the Medicaid program. North Carolina has a pending request in to change the Medicaid payment system to one where recipients enroll in managed-care, pre-paid health plans. The bill would have the

Legislative Republicans for years have resisted expanding Medicaid, passing a bill about four years ago that prohibits expansion without legislative consent. When newly-elected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper moved in early January to expand Medicaid, Republican legislative leaders sued to stop it.

U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan issued a temporary restraining order that blocked any action before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In late January, Trump’s administration informed the court that they planned to take no action for nearly three months.

That put the lawsuit on hold until late last month when the parties involved submitted a status report.

From that report, the judge agreed to give federal officials until April 7 to respond to the Republican leaders.

That response was not publicly available as of late Friday afternoon. State officials sued by legislaive leaders have asked for the case to be dismissed from the federal courts.

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