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Other voices: Will Medicaid expansion come to NC in 2019?

After North Carolina lawmakers were sworn in for a new two-year term Jan. 9, their leaders had some unusually conciliatory words to share with House and Senate members.

Senate leader Phil Berger said he’s “hopeful now that we can put political battles behind us and find common ground in advancing our shared interest in helping North Carolina continue to grow and prosper.” Berger, who has successfully stomped and bulldozed Democrats since Republicans took over the General Assembly in the 2010 election, acknowledged that he no longer has a veto-proof majority and needs Democrats’ votes to get things done. “I, for one, extend a hand to legislative Democrats and to Governor Cooper,” he said. “Let’s work together in good faith and let’s find those places where sometimes-elusive common ground exists.”

Speaker Tim Moore was singing from the same hymnal.

It’s amazing the difference an election can make. Unfortunately, all the lawmakers went home after the speeches and won’t return until the end of this month.

We’ll have to wait until then to see if Berger and Moore were serious and if members of both parties will heed their advice. There are plenty of places where a new spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation can pay dividends.

But perhaps the most important gain of all would be the expansion of the state’s Medicaid system to offer health care coverage to the “working poor.” That was one of the foundational pieces of the Affordable Care Act, but the Republican majority refused to consider it, despite the fact that it would cost the state somewhere between little and nothing.

Most of the funding will come from Washington, D.C., although the state runs the program.

There was legitimate reason for caution about expansion in the first couple of years after Obamacare became law. Our Medicaid system was a shambles, plagued by jaw-dropping budget overruns that erupted annually. But some good management and program changes have brought order to that chaos and the program has been on an even keel for several years now. It could easily be expanded to cover some of this state’s neediest residents, which would bring billions of federal dollars into the state, shore up the finances of our health care providers, help them expand and stop the financial drain on our hospitals, which must treat uninsured patients anyway and often have to absorb the cost.

— Fayetteville Observer

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