Republican State Lawmaker Defends Government Health Insurance Proposal as ‘Not Medicaid Expansion’

GREENVILLE – Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) is the tip of the spear for the ‘Carolina Cares‘ legislative proposal aimed at providing health insurance coverage for more than 300,000 North Carolinians that do not qualify for Medicaid. Amid North Carolina Democrats’ concerted push to expand Medicaid outright, many pegged the Republican proposal as merely Medicaid expansion-lite, including us, and Murphy is taking issue with that categorization of his bill in an opinion editorial penned for the Greenville Reflector.

In the op-ed, Murphy states that Carolina Cares is not Medicaid expansion, and would not add anyone to the Medicaid rolls in North Carolina.

“In 2017, I was proud to Sponsor House Bill 662, also known as Carolina Cares. It is important to stress that, contrary to what has been reported in various media outlets, this is not an expansion of the fiscally uncertain Federal Medicaid program. Carolina Cares is a conservative and fiscally responsible alternative to Medicaid expansion that would not add a single person to the already 2 million North Carolinians on the Medicaid rolls. It is an entirely different insurance product.”

An ‘entirely different insurance product‘ created by state government. Great – a new subsidized insurance product created by (state) government to address the inflated premiums and arbitrary healthcare access restrictions created by government over-regulation in the first place.

We’re not sure why creating an “entirely new paradigm,” as one bill sponsor put it, in the form of an entirely new health insurance program that leverages the coercive power of government to fix prices is desirable in the least.

“Carolina Cares would provide a health insurance product created and managed right here at home, one whose elements closely resemble private insurance or North Carolina’s State Health Plan.”

The State Health Plan is a heavily subsidized health insurance program for state employees that makes up the bulk of North Carolina’s $40 billion in unfunded liabilities that Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell has been warning us about as a danger.

“Citizens who qualify for this program have often purchased private health insurance in the past. They are not looking for a government handout. Instead these workers, who make up the backbone of our state’s economy, are in search of an affordable alternative to skyrocketing insurance premiums. There are low and affordable income-based premiums required under Carolina Cares. There is an ongoing work requirement, but there are exemptions from this including for individuals caring for a dependent minor or disabled child. These elements of Carolina Cares give it the important partnership of affordability and accountability that so many government programs lack.”

They may not be looking for a handout, but that’s exactly what Carolina Cares would be giving them. The plan would have participants pay only a nominal premium and small co-pays, while also featuring a work requirement. So how does the plan pay for the offset in premium and co-pay costs for these 300,000 people?

The State would charge North Carolina hospitals an assessment to help pay costs. Under the plan, other unspecified assessments could also be charged. So hospitals, who already treat Medicare patients at cost, essentially, and treat Medicaid patients at a loss, will, under this plan, be charged more assessments to fund the treatment of an extra 300,000+ patients.

While billed as a “a conservative and fiscally responsible alternative to Medicaid expansion,” there is nothing conservative about coercing and taxing healthcare providers to fund healthcare for people that cannot afford it. That’s called statism, and it has nothing to do with conservatism.

If Republican lawmakers were interested in truly conservative approach’s to making healthcare more affordable and accessible, then perhaps they should give serious consideration to dismantling the State’s Certificate of Need (CON) regulatory regime.

CON laws are antiquated regulations that force the rationing of MRI machines, to hospital beds, to outpatient care facilities. They require physicians, clinics, surgery centers, and hospitals to ask the State’s permission to add services, technology, or even to merely expand healthcare options in any particular market.

They directly contribute to dramatically inflated prices (ever been charged for an MRI? Ouch!) as well as needlessly restricting access to healthcare services and snuffing out market-based innovations.

Why? Because the government and its bureaucrats know best. The same kind of hubris is evident in Carolina Cares. These 300,000 people can’t afford coverage (wonder why), so let’s have the government create a program to “fix it.”

Remember the last time more government involvement ‘fixed’ problems in healthcare? Me neither.

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