If you thought – as some have speculated – that Gov. Pat McCrory was wavering on his decision to reject a federal Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, his office stomped on that notion last week with a harsh holiday statement.
McCrory and Republican lawmakers have been taking heat this year since declining the expansion, which would have extended health care coverage to anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion was paid for with federal funds through 2016, with the federal government also paying 90 percent after that.
In response to a Moral Monday protest asking the General Assembly to reconsider, McCrory spokesman Rick Martinez let loose Monday. “We are fortunate that Governor McCrory chose not to expand Obamacare given how disastrous the rollout has been,” he said. “Instead, Governor McCrory is working to strengthen the economy so more North Carolinians can earn a paycheck instead of hoping for a government check.”
Ah, the standard conservative dodge – dismissing those who might receive benefits as “hoping” for a handout instead of a job. Nice message to send on a holiday week to all those still trying to find work – or those who have a job but are still far enough below poverty level to qualify for the Medicaid benefits McCrory and Co. are refusing.
But the statement swung and missed in a bigger way with its insistence that Medicaid expansion and economic growth are opposing forces. They’re not. Study upon study shows that expanding Medicaid spurs economic activity in states by injecting new money (and new jobs) into the health sector and other sectors. One study by Massachusetts-based Regional Economic Models estimated that North Carolina could add 25,000 new jobs by accepting the federal Medicaid dollars.
Even if everyone but the governor is wrong about the economic benefits of expansion, at the least it would offer coverage to tens of thousands of vulnerable North Carolinians at a minimal cost. And at the least, McCrory’s office should stop taking shots at people who want a paycheck as much as the governor wants them to have one.