By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
February 14, 2013
RALEIGH — The Republican-led Legislature this week rejected plans to expand Medicaid and to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, both components of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers also have shown little interest in a bill to allow marijuana to be used as medicine.
“Although some have called the leadership’s approval of S 4 – No NC Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion an attack on the poor, the truth of the matter is North Carolina must live within its means. Paying to expand Medicaid to another half-million people, even with initial federal money, is banking on funds that simply don’t exist,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
Earlier in the week, Rep. Jeff Collins (R-Franklin) said the expansion plan, backed by federal funding promises for the first three years, would be like “playing with Monopoly money.”
In Thursday’s debate on the House floor, Rep. John Blust (R- Guilford) reminded fellow members that 100 percent of the money the federal government would use to fund the expansion is borrowed and that every proposal being eyed to cut federal debt would put an end to the funding, thus pulling the financial rug out from under states which had chosen to expand coverage.
Already North Carolina’s Medicaid program is in trouble. Late last month, State Auditor Beth Wood released an audit showing some $1.4 billion in administrative overruns during the past three fiscal years, including $375 million in state funds.
“This audit reinforces the fact that we cannot expand Medicaid and put more North Carolinians into this system without first addressing many of the underlying issues that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars every day,” Gov. Pat McCrory told the media when the problems came to light.
Although Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham) said the newly hired director of Health and Human Services promised to have all the discrepancies revealed in the audit cleared up by June, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) echoed the governor’s concerns.
‘When your house is in shambles, you don’t build onto it, you fix the existing structure,” he said. “… In the Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, the auditor said the federal government has contacted her about her audit, and that’s not good news, folks. We need to make sure we are working to repair our existing structure.”
As for claims that the expansion would create some 25,000 jobs across the state, Rep. Burr called them “hogwash.”
“It is irresponsible. You don’t create jobs by borrowing money from the federal government,” he said. “We create jobs by pulling the government back and allowing the private sector to thrive.”
As for the section of the bill that would leave healthcare exchanges in the hands of Washington, Burr said, “The federal government created this beast, they should have to deal with it.”
Rep. Hall accused Republicans of letting politics get in the way of helping citizens and said failure to expand Medicaid would jeopardize rural hospitals. He made a motion that the bill be sent back to the Health and Human Services Committee, but Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) immediately moved that the motion lie upon the table, which was approved with a second and a vote of 75 to 40.
Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) concluded comments from the Majority by reminding the House of all the people in North Carolina who already receive Medicaid, many of whom have income levels of 50 to 100 percent above the poverty level. He also challenged them to consider Washington’s track record when it comes to costs.
“Have you ever in your life seen a federal entitlement program that didn’t far exceed its projected cost to the taxpayer?” he asked.
After a half hour of debate, House members voted 75-42 to approve the House Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 4. Because they had made a slight change in the bill to clarify that the state will keep federal funding for a computer system to direct the needy to Medicaid and other benefits, the measure will now go back to the Senate for concurrence before being sent to Gov. McCrory.
The Senate had already approved S4 by a party line vote of 75-39 and is expected to concur.
As for the push for so-called “medicinal” marijuana, media reports show approximately 200 pot promoters came to the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for H 84 – Enact Medical Cannabis Act. So far, no action has been taken on the bill, which remains in the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.
“We appreciate CAL supporters who took the time to phone or e-mail their lawmakers in opposition to this dangerous measure, and so far so good, as the bill does not seem to be gaining traction,” said Dr. Creech. “However, we will continue to monitor it closely as the session goes on.”
The state Democratic Party has made medical marijuana part of its platform, and supporters of the bill tout a recent Public Policy Polling survey which showed some 58 percent of North Carolinians favor a plan to allow the psychoactive drug to be used as medicine.
“We must not take anything for granted,” said Dr. Creech. “If you yet to contact your legislator in opposition of this measure, I urge you do so. Lawmakers are getting numerous emails from the pro-medical marijuana advocates.”
Take Christian Action: Send a pre-written email to your Representative in the North Carolina House in opposition of the legalization of medical marijuana by clicking here