by: Jim Bradley Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. - Gov. Pat McCrory’s office sent a 75-page proposal to fix the state’s Medicaid program to the General Assembly on Monday.
It’s already causing controversy even among some of the governor’s fellow Republicans.
North Carolina spends billions on Medicaid, the government’s health program for low-income children, parents and seniors.
State Republicans said the program is broken and the costs are out of control.
“It’s a huge challenge for us,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. “Some of us call it a runaway train.”
McCrory’s plan to get Medicaid back on track suggested the state create a new network of hospitals and doctors called Accountable Care Organizations to manage care for Medicaid patients.
The ACOs would get to keep some of the money they save the state but would also pay if costs go over budget. Republicans said it will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Democrats said it will almost certainly cut medical help for the poor.
“Our state has been recognized as having one of the best Medicaid programs. And my thing is, if it's not broke, don't fix it,” said Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg.
Republicans have enough votes in the Legislature to pass just about any measure they want, including Medicaid reform.
Political expert Eric Heberlig with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Political Science Department said Medicaid also highlights the disconnect between Republicans and Democrats and could be a major issue for voters in upcoming elections.
“That’s one of the core differences between the parties,” he said. “The Republicans think government should be smaller. People should take personal responsibility. Democrats emphasize that we’re all in it together.”
The governor’s proposal is also causing concerns within the Republican Party. A letter from Republican Sen. Louis Pate of Kinston states the plan “falls short of the goals of true reform.”
Carolinas HealthCare System released the following statement:
“Carolinas HealthCare System remains supportive of the Governor's goal of reforming North Carolina's Medicaid program to better address the health needs of the whole patient, both mental and physical, in a fiscally sustainable way. We applaud the considerable work the Secretary and the Medicaid Reform Committee have done to address the needs of our patients and the role of providers. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the General Assembly to do the hard work of reaching the goals of cost predictability and long-term sustainability while still protecting patient access. Certainly we are pleased that healthcare providers were included as part of the process. This is obviously just the beginning and there is more work to be done.”