Legislature passes Medicaid expansion
It’s part of the federal Affordable Health Care Act – commonly known as “Obamacare.”
And North Dakota lawmakers have voted to expand Medicaid to make sure that 20-thousand North Dakotans who don’t have health insurance will be covered. The federal government will pick up the entire tab for at least the next two years.
Sen. Judy Lee (R-West Fargo) says under the bill, North Dakotans are paying taxes for the Act – so the state should be getting something in return.
"We have a moral and ethical obligation to provide these services to the people who need the most," said Lee. "And I believe this fits that definition."
Opponents said they're worried the state may end up holding the bag for those expenses. Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck) says the federal government is broke.
"Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are already fiscally unsustainable, and must be reformed," said Sitte. "How can we vote to expand Medicaid and plunge ourselves deeper in debt when we can't pay what we already owe?"
"It sounds great," said Sen. Bill Bowman (R-Bowman). "They've made it so the states can hardly turn it down. But lo and behold, as we watch that clock tick, and all of a sudden our credit drops, and our federal government goes broke, we can only blame ourselves if we want to pass this."
Sen. Spencer Berry (R-Fargo) is a doctor – and he says he’s no fan of the Affordable Care Act. But he voted for the expansion.
"As much as I may not like a lot of what this particular piece of legislation has to offer, it is the way it is," said Berry. "The most positive thing I can say about the Affordable Care Act is that it has forced us to have a discussion about health care in this country."
Democrats also supported the measure.
"Today will be a good day for people who live in the shadows," said Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo). "They are the people that are working, who don't earn enough for a private health insurance plan, but they make too much for a public health plan."
The measure passed the Senate 32-14. Because it has already passed the House, it now goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.