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Health care vote expected Tuesday; McCrory says he'll sign rejection of Medicaid expansion [The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.]

By Paul Woolverton, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 23--Legislation to block North Carolina from parts of Obamacare, the president's health care reform program, likely will be approved in the House and Senate on Tuesday, state Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle said Friday.

The legislation could be on the governor's desk Wednesday, and he is expected to sign it.

The bill would opt North Carolina out of two pieces of the federal Affordable Care Act:

Participation in a health insurance exchange. The exchange, to begin operating in 2014, will be a marketplace where people can shop for health insurance. If the state doesn't set up an exchange for its residents, the federal government will make one.

Expansion of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. As many as 500,000 North Carolina residents would become eligible for Medicaid at a cost of $2 billion a year. The federal government would pay all of the cost for the first several years, then phase down to 90 percent. North Carolina taxpayers would make up the difference.

Support and opposition to the bill has fallen along party lines.

Republicans, who control the state, say North Carolina needs to avoid adding to its tax burden with the Medicaid expansion and solve serious problems with the program before expanding it.

Democrats say the state is rejecting an opportunity to improve health care for the poor.

The bill was moving swiftly through the legislature until Tuesday, when its final scheduled Senate vote was postponed. State Sen. Tom Apodaca, the lead sponsor, said technical errors needed correction, so the bill was sent to a conference committee.

The final version should be made public Monday night, said Burr, the committee's co-chairman.

Republican governors and legislatures across the country have resisted Obama's health care overhaul. But some, most-recently Florida Gov. Rick Scott, have reversed themselves.

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North Carolina's delay is no indication that the legislature will back down, Burr said.

The bill was sent to conference to tighten its language to ensure that North Carolina won't expand Medicaid, Burr said, and to make sure the bill will close out a $75 million grant the state received to implement an exchange. The state has used $11 million of the grant and will return the rest, he said.

As of Wednesday, 13 states are rejecting the Medicaid expansion, five are leaning against it, three are leaning for it and 23 plus Washington have accepted it. The figures are from the Advisory Board Co., a research firm.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at woolvertonp@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3512.

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(c)2013 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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