Today, a group of House Republicans filed House Bill 655, the “North Carolina Health Insurance for Working Families Act.” Representatives Donny Lambeth (Forsyth), Greg Murphy (Pitt), Josh Dobson (Avery), and Donna White (Johnston) are the bill’s primary sponsors.
Despite claims that the legislation would not be an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, bill sponsors spent the majority of the press conference defending Medicaid expansion. Changing the name of a program does not mask that the program expands Medicaid.
However, this is not a new ploy. The same group of primary sponsors was responsible for a piece of legislation filed last year, known as “Carolina Cares.”
One of the bill sponsors claimed that Carolina Cares was not Medicaid expansion, but instead an “entirely different insurance product.” That claim was misleading, at best. Although it differed in some ways from the Democrat-proposed Medicaid expansion, such as having work requirements, Carolina Cares was funded and administered as an expansion of Medicaid.
The HB655 proposal has almost all of the same characteristics of Carolina Cares. To recap, the government-issued insurance program:
- Is administered through the federal and state Medicaid program departments.
- Receives federal funding through a 1115 waiver at a rate of 90 percent, the same as Medicaid expansion in other states.
- Has the same negative consequences of traditional Medicaid expansion, including limiting access for those that need it most and putting the state’s finances in jeopardy.
The major addition to this year’s version of Carolina Cares is the creation of a grant program that sends tax revenue to healthcare providers in rural areas. The bill also clarifies that the program will cease to exist if the federal match falls – a shallow promise, no doubt, since it would be politically impossible to revoke health insurance coverage once it is granted.
In the press conference, bill sponsors argued for the bill’s passage using the same talking points that proponents of expansion have been using for months. Civitas has already addressed the majority of those claims.
- Claim: Medicaid expansion would bring North Carolina’s federal tax dollars back to our state. Fact: There is no special fund to which North Carolina contributes that is used to fund Medicaid programs in other states. In fact, North Carolina already has a net positive relationship with federal taxes. But either way, since the country is $22 trillion in debt, all spending is deficit spending at this point. Read more here and here.
- Claim: Medicaid expansion would create jobs. Fact: Federal dollars can only prop up those jobs if actual new medical services are provided. With a lack of doctors accepting new Medicaid patients, this is unlikely. Read more here.
- Claim: Medicaid expansion is the only way to increase access to care. Fact: Having health insurance does not guarantee that someone will have access to care. Read more about the myth here and the solutions here.
Besides the addition of the rural grant program, HB 655 is just the same old song and dance from the last legislative session. Carolina Cares was a version of Medicaid expansion, and HB 655 is nothing more than Carolina Cares 2.0.