NC GOP: Medicaid expansion vote possible later this year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An up-or-down vote on broad Medicaid expansion in North Carolina could occur before the November elections, key Republican legislators said on Tuesday.

A joint House-Senate panel created in the current budget law and tasked with studying health care access and possible expansion holds its first meeting on Friday. The committee could submit proposed legislation to the full General Assembly before this year’s session ends, the budget law says.

While there’s no guarantee that North Carolina will accept expansion — many House Republicans still oppose the idea — more Senate Republicans led by Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County have warmed to the concept in 2021.

“It depends what the substance of the measure is, but I think there’s a pathway,” Berger told WRAL-TV, adding that any vote would likely come before the Nov. 8 elections.

North Carolina is one of a dozen states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid to working adults as provided under the 2010 federal health care law. Support has grown in part because of a financial sweetener from the federal government above and beyond what it already pays to cover conventional recipients. Hundreds of thousands of additional people would be anticipated to join the Medicaid rolls, which is already at 2.7 million in the state.

Rep. Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County, a committee co-chair, told WRAL that he’d like whatever the committee proposes to come before the full General Assembly before the November elections, with expansion approved in January.

“I think it’s possible for January,” Lambeth said. “That’s my goal.”

Democrats led by Gov. Roy Cooper are strong expansion supporters, with Cooper pitching the idea since taking office in 2017.

House Speaker Tim Moore said last year there wasn’t enough support among the chamber’s GOP caucus to approve expansion. Moore Chief of Staff Neal Inman told the station the committee has “no predetermined outcomes,” and any plan would have to overcome concerns that too many people are on government health insurance.