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NC General Assembly could take up Medicaid expansion bill this week

Senator Kevin Corbin (R) spoke at the press conference announcing the bill in May.
Courtesy of Kevin Corbin
Senator Kevin Corbin (R) spoke at the press conference announcing the bill in May.

A Medicaid expansion bill could be on the floor this week in the North Carolina General Assembly. BPR talked with one Western North Carolina senator who helped write the bill.

Republican Senator Kevin Corbin who represents the westernmost counties in the state has been a part of the discussion about Medicaid expansion for years.

“It will be voted on the floor this week,” said Corbin.

He remembers when the House recently advocated for some expansion but now it seems like it’s the Senate’s turn.

“A couple of years ago when I was in the House, the House was willing to take a look at it. I actually put forward a bill to expand Medicaid that’s similar to the senate bill that out there now. Back then the Senate did not want to take it up,” said Corbin, who was elected to the House in 2017. “Now I’m over in the Senate, and the Senate has talked about it most of this past year.”

That includes one of the bill’s former opponents.

“Of course, Senator Berger has been a supportive of this and has been one of the driving forces of getting the Medicaid bill started,” said Corbin.

State Senate leader Phil Berger and other North Carolina Republicans have long argued cost was one of the big issues that kept them from giving the greenlight to expanding Medicaid to extend coverage to an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians. The federal government authorized Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Corbin says this new bill solves for that cost through a stipulation that says if the federal funding model ever changes from the current rate of paying 90 percent of coverage costs then the bill will become null and void. The 10 percent that the state pays will mainly be charged to hospitals which Corbin says under the plan hospitals
should see more funds coming in because more patients would be covered by Medicaid.

“So in other words the hospital will be taking in a lot of money that they haven’t been taking in before and the part that they are having to pay back in a very small part of that,” said Corbin.

The bill also includes a controversial work requirement for participants which has been a sticking point for Democrats and has been struck down by courts in other states.     

Corbin points out that the majority of his district has backed Medicaid expansion.

“As a matter of fact, six of my seven counties and the Eastern Band [of Cherokee] have all come forward with resolutions supporting Medicaid expansion,” said Corbin.

Despite this support, the future of the bill is doubtful. North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has said that there isn’t an appetite for the expansion to be passed by the House during the current short session.

Law makers are focusing on the budget this session – including what to do with an approximately $4 billion surplus. Corbin says he will advocate that most of the funds will be put in reserve.

“We’ll put some of that into saving because most of us agree that we think we are headed for a recession. When that’s going be and how severe that is going to be – there are varying opinions about that,” said Corbin.

If the Medicaid expansion bill isn’t passed this session it could be taken up later on. North Carolina is one of 12 statesthat has not expanded coverage.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.