State Senate leader should support bid to expand Medicaid

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The case for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina has only become more compelling with time.

A new study suggests that it has resulted in fewer middle-aged Americans dying from heart disease.

And, according to abstracts released on June 2 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, it has reduced racial disparities in cancer care.

The man in the photograph doesn’t seem to care.

Specifically, Senate leader Phil Berger is the reason the N.C. Senate passed a budget that does not include Medicaid expansion, which could provide health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

The N.C. House budget had no such provision, either, even though sound proposals were made to both bodies.

But it’s not a done deal yet. The threat of a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper may finally force Berger’s hand.

Support for Medicaid expansion has never been higher — a poll cited earlier this year by the N.C. Fund for a Conservative Future showed more than 70 percent of North Carolinians in favor. That number included not only 90.1 percent of Democrats, but 66.9 percent of unaffiliated voters and 52.4 percent of Republicans.

Medicaid already serves about 2.1 million North Carolinians — more than 20 percent of the population. Expansion could benefit as many as 670,000 more residents, giving them access to affordable primary physician care and reducing their dependency on expensive hospital emergency department services.

But Berger has stood in the doorway of Medicaid expansion since 2013, when the option was first introduced as a function of the Affordable Care Act. Then, Berger argued that the federal government might back out of its promise to pick up the entire cost for the first three years and more than 90% after that.

But when has the U.S. government failed to meet its obligations?

Berger has also said that Medicaid expansion “disincentivizes folks to go to work,” although he has shown little interest in House Bill 655, sponsored by state Rep. Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County, which includes a work requirement for some recipients.

A statement from Berger’s office recently said that “while Democrats have focused their efforts on expanding socialized medicine via Obamacare Medicaid expansion, Republicans believe that care for people with severe disabilities should be prioritized over taxpayer funding for able-bodied adults.”

Note the hyperbole: “Socialized medicine via Obamacare.” Thirty-seven states have signed up for Medicaid expansion, including several red states that initially resisted. None of them have turned over the means of production to Marxists.

And why the either/or? Do we really have to choose between health care for people with severe disabilities versus health care for others?

These are not good-faith arguments. They’re excuses. North Carolinians need health care and Berger has not pursued any reasonable course for providing it.

Berger’s right, though, that expanding Medicaid has been a priority for Democrats. It should be for both parties. We can only hope that the man in the picture stops scrambling for flimsy excuses and endorses a solution.