Today, House and Senate Democrats filed a bill to expand Medicaid in North Carolina as provided for in Obamacare. Gov. Cooper, and many legislative Democrats have made this a top priority for 2019.
The bill would expand Medicaid coverage to working-age people earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level not currently eligible for Medicaid. The majority of those newly eligible would be able-bodied, childless males. There is no work requirement included in the bill.
The state share of the cost of expansion has been estimated to be upwards of $340 million, which would be paid for by a tax increase on hospitals. State owned and/or operated hospitals would be exempt from the tax.
In a press conference today discussing the bill, the issue of actual access to care for the newly eligible was once again ignored. Since 2003, North Carolina’s Medicaid program has ballooned from about 1 million enrollees to about 2.1 million today. At the same time, the number of physicians accepting Medicaid patients plummeted by 28 percent. Expansion would stuff another 500,000 people into this already overcrowded program. Who will these patients see when they get sick? That question is never asked of expansion proponents.
Moreover, during the press conference the example of Ohio’s Medicaid expansion was mentioned as a success story. Left out of the story, however, was the fact that actual expansion enrollment in Ohio exceeded initial projections by nearly 60 percent, while the cost explosion was so bad it caught the eye of a Senate panel investigation.
Another speaker noted how currently hospitals who treat uninsured patients pass those costs along to other patients, and that having more people covered by Medicaid would help remedy that. But wouldn’t the new hospital tax likewise be passed along to other patients? Naturally that question wasn’t asked.
Finally, it was emphasized that polling shows that Medicaid expansion is popular with North Carolinians. Sure it is, until people actually learn more about it. When informed about expansion’s actual cost and who would be covered, support for expansion dropped by half.