RALEIGH — State Rep. Charles Graham says Robesonians are going to be hurt by North Carolina’s decision to turn down federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 500,000 of the state’s poor residents.
On Thursday, the House after two days of floor debate voted 75 to 42 to block Medicaid expansion. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans voting against expansion and Democrats voting for the measure that is a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care reform.
The Medicaid expansion would provide additional poor people with the insurance coverage required when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented next year. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the expanded Medicaid coverage between 2014 and 2016, and then drop to 90 percent by 2020.
“I know we are a poor county and this is going to affect a lot of people,” Graham, a Democrat who represents Robeson County, said shortly after Thursday’s vote. “This has the potential to negatively impact an additional 20,000 to 30,000 individuals that are on the edge and don’t meet the current income levels to receive health care through Medicaid.”
Graham places the blame for blocking Medicaid expansion directly on the GOP.
“We’re here promoting jobs, economic development, educational opportunity, and many other issues important to North Carolina citizens,” he said. “Why would we not support our most deserving and deprived citizens with the same energy and enthusiasm? I’m disappointed that my friends on the other side of the aisle have taken the position not to expand Medicaid to our citizens.”
Graham said that expanding Medicaid would help working families who are still struggling with a sour economy.
“I voted against blocking expansion because we shouldn’t let politics stand in the way of expanding health care coverage to some 500,000 people, creating 23,000 jobs, and preventing the cost of treating the uninsured from being passed on to hardworking taxpayers.” he said. “This short-sighted decision to reject Medicaid expansion will hurt our economy and
the quality of life for many citizens.”
Graham emphasized how Medicaid expansion would benefit not only the individuals needing the assistance, but also medical providers and medical facilities.
“Not providing expanded Medicaid takes away from preventive health care,” he said. “If a poor person doesn’t have Medicaid, they don’t go to a doctor. When they get a serious health condition they end up going to a hospital emergency room. That means a higher cost for the patient, as well as an expense that the hospital and state must absorb.”
Graham said that the other House members representing Robeson County — Garland Pierce, Kenneth Waddell and Ken Goodman, all Democrats — also voted for Medicaid expansion.
Sen. Michael Walters, a Democrat representing Robeson and Columbus counties, voted against blocking the expansion when a version of the bill was voted on in the Senate earlier this month, Graham said.
The bill, which Graham says is about “quality of life,” now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, for his review. McCrory reportedly has said that the federal government can’t be counted on to pay all the costs for new Medicaid recipients in the future. He also reportedly has said that state Medicaid problems need to be addressed before there is any expansion of the system.
Statewide, Medicaid provides medical coverage for more than 1.5 million residents — and about a third of Robeson County’s residents. About $13 billion in state and federal funds is currently being spent on the program in North Carolina.