FILE - North Carolina State Legislative Office Building

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building courtesy of W Edward Callis III / Wikimedia via Creative Commons

While Medicaid expansion in North Carolina remains up in the air, a bill is heading to the House floor that would create a task force to study potential solutions to health care problems in the state.

North Carolina ranks 50th out all U.S. states when it comes to its health care system, according to financial consumer website Wallethub. 

State lawmakers and the governor have been at a stalemate for more than a month over a new state budget and Gov. Roy Cooper's desire to expand Medicaid in North Carolina through the Affordable Care Act.

“The Governor will not sign any budget unless Medicaid expansion is first passed into law, so it’s difficult to take him seriously when he says he wants to negotiate the budget,” Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger said Tuesday.

The pending bill, the Health Care Expansion Act of 2019, calls for a 15-member task force to work in two stages to examine North Carolina’s health care system.

The task force would study what the best metric is to measure the state’s health care needs, what reimbursement rates should be offered and what medical education needs are.

The task force would then have to issue a report on the findings and draft solutions based on what they find. It would consider the impact of health care measures implemented in other states; short-term programs in rural areas; the feasibility of offering tax credits or incentives to providers; and review health care payment models.

If the bill passes, the task force will consist of three members each of the Senate, House of Representatives and the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers.

Two members each from the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, North Carolina Institute of Medicine, Office of Rural Health and Department of Health and Human Services would also be included.

The bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote on June 26.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Davie, and Rep. Josh Dobson, R-Avery, presented the bill to the House Committee On Rules, Calendar and Operations on Wednesday afternoon.

The bills other provisions would allow North Carolina psychologists to practice telepsychology in other states through an alliance, raise lupus awareness; require insurers to cover orally administered chemotherapy drugs; and expand other telehealth services, among other things.

The bill passed the House committee without any further discussion Wednesday.

The North Carolina General Assembly has been battling Cooper over the budget and Medicaid expansion since the governor vetoed the state budget on June 28. 

Cooper wants the state to secure nearly $3 billion of federal funds under the Affordable Care Act to cover around 400,000 uninsured adults in North Carolina. The state initially would be responsible for $173 million more a year in spending.

Republicans also proposed N.C. Health Care For Working Families act, a health care program that comes with income-based premiums and an employment requirement. The options to override Cooper’s veto of the budget and to vote on N.C. Health Care For Working Families have stalled on the House floor since early July.

Staff Writer

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.