A bill in the state House would expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income people, though it would include work requirements and premiums, provisions opposed by Governor Roy Cooper and fellow Democrats.
Still, a group of Democratic representatives held a news conference Tuesday to urge House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) to allow a debate and vote on the measure to proceed.
"Medicaid expansion should not be held hostage by the speaker," said Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Hoke, Scotland). Pierce said he stands with the governor on his veto of the budget, primarily over its failure to provide for Medicaid expansion.
The budget and Medicaid bill in the house have become inextricably linked.
A spokesman for Speaker Moore said the Medicaid expansion bill currently stalled in the House will be considered for a vote after a successful override of the Governor’s budget veto.
Even though Republicans in the House no longer possess a veto-proof majority, GOP leaders are holding out hope they can persuade enough Democrats to cross party lines and support an override.
Meanwhile, Democrats like Pierce, especially those who represent poorer, rural districts, are determined to show their constituents they are doing everything possible to push for Medicaid expansion.
"We have folks who are suffering with failing health issues such as diabetes, respiratory disorders, high blood pressure, heart failure, not to mention those who are fighting opioid addiction," said Rep. Charles Graham (D-Robeson), acknowledging he opposed the work requirements and premiums but felt that starting the discussion about Medicaid expansion is essential.
Progress in the House would hardly mean guaranteed success for Medicaid expansion in any form because Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Caswell, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry) has made his opposition to such legislation clear.