Under the Dome

GOP effort to block Medicaid expansion, state exchanges advances to full House

Now with Gov. Pat McCrory's support, a measure to thwart President Obama's health care law is headed to the House floor.

A House health care committee tweaked Senate Bill 4 -- which blocks the expansion of Medicaid and prevents a state-sponsored exchange -- before approving it largely on party lines by a 16 to 7 vote. The House added a fix to help address concerns about funding of the state's current Medicaid system. The full House is expected to hear the bill Wednesday and Thursday and it will need to return to the Senate because of the change.

Lawmakers gave the legislation a healthy discussion and Republicans shot down two amendments offered by Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, who called the bill "an attack on poor people."

The debate rehashed partisan talking points with Republicans concerned about the financial obligations of the program, particularly after the federal government stops paying the full load, and Democrats eager to extend a safety net and reduce the number of uninsured people in North Carolina.

Rep. Justin Burr, the Republican leading the House effort, chastised the federal government for dangling money in front of the states and the size of the federal debt, calling it a "wet blanket suffocating our state."

Democratic state Rep. Beverly Earle of Charlotte connected the bill to the GOP effort to curtail unemployment benefits. "We've only been here for a few days and already we are rushing through two pieces of legislation and I think they are very much connected," she said. "This is a safety net for people who would otherwise have no place to go ... I think North Carolina ought to do better than this."

Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis and GOP whip Mike Hager sat in the back of the room listening to the debate, along with Art Pope, McCrory's budget director.

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