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Medicaid expansion, finally?

Writer

Chris Fitzsimon is founder and director of NC Policy Watch, a progressive public policy think tank that is a special project of the N.C. Justice Center.

From a column by Chris Fitzsimon of N.C. Policy Watch:

You probably missed the news that the members of the overwhelmingly Republican state Senate finally came to their senses Monday and voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and provide health care to hundreds of thousands of people.

One Republican Senator said it was simply the right thing to do and that the state had “citizens who are uninsured and hospitals that are suffering.”

Another Republican told a reporter that he couldn’t believe it took the state so long to embrace Medicaid expansion.

There’s a reason you likely missed this monumental decision. It didn’t happen in North Carolina. It came in the Kansas, in the state Senate where Republicans hold a supermajority.

The Kansas House, where Republicans also hold a supermajority of seats, has already approved expansion.

The bill soon heads to Governor Sam Brownback who has long opposed expanding Medicaid and is likely to veto the proposal, setting up a showdown with the legislature that may have the votes to override him.

Thirty-one states have already expanded Medicaid, roughly half of them with Republican governors including New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio and Indiana—when former Governor Mike Pence was in charge.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory flirted with Medicaid expansion but never presented the General Assembly with a plan despite the overwhelming benefits to the state — insurance coverage for several hundred thousand people, billions of federal dollars to help struggling hospitals and thousands of new jobs.

Republican legislative leaders have adamantly opposed expansion since they took over control of the General Assembly with much of their opposition based as much on their dislike of President Obama as any objections to the specifics of what expansion would entail. …

Expanding Medicaid has made sense from the beginning of this health care debate. That’s why Democratic and Republican governors have expanded it and why states like Kansas and Maine are considering expansion now.

It’s been 13 years since noted journalist and historian Thomas Frank wrote his widely read book “What’s the Matter with Kansas” about that state’s conservative voting patterns that were out of line with the state’s economic interests.

Now Kansas of all places is now pushing ahead with Medicaid expansion.

It’s time to start asking what’s the matter with North Carolina when it comes to an obvious way to create jobs, help hospitals and most importantly provide health care for 350,000 people who cannot afford it.

Or maybe more correctly, what’s the matter with the people in charge of the General Assembly?

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