One of the first pieces of legislation approved this year by the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly was a bill barring the state from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul.
Gov. Pat McCrory at the time had asked legislative leaders to delay action on the bill while his administration studied the condition of the Medicaid program and weighed the consequences of getting on board with the federal government to expand Medicaid eligibility to as many as 500,000 low-income North Carolinians.
Republican legislative leaders ignored his request.
McCrory signed the legislation into law, declaring that before considering Medicaid expansion, the state’s current system – which has been running over budget for several years – needs to be revamped.
McCrory on March 8 ordered state agencies to trim expenses to help cover yet another shortfall in the Medicaid program, which is on track to spend $70 million to $130 million more in state funds than originally was budgeted through June 30.
McCrory again vowed to fix the Medicaid program and has directed N.C. Department of Health and Human Services officials to bring its spending under control.
While GOP legislative leaders were quick to refuse North Carolina’s participation in the federal health care reform on ideological grounds, the governor is showing the pragmatic, problem-solving approach on which he built a reputation while serving as mayor of Charlotte.
The state certainly needs to get Medicaid’s fiscal house in order. There will be plenty of opportunities to revisit its expansion at a later time.