Today the ND House Human Services Committee gave, by a 12-1 vote, a “do pass” recommendation to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s request for an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program as requested in the Obamacare law.
The expansion would be a 45% expansion of the already hugely expensive program, adding tens of thousands of new enrollees and allowing the program to serve as a landing pad for many of those who lose their employer-based health insurance as Obamacare is implemented.
The bill to implement the expansion has been watered down a bit, including a sunset provision that would require the legislature to re-authorize the expansion on August 1st, 2017 (which is only as far as the feds have funded it). That gives the state the option of ending the expansion if the feds don’t continue funding, but let’s be serious. Once the expansion is entrenched in law, legislators will come under fire for “cutting benefits” for Medicaid recipients if they try to get rid of it.
And we all know that Republicans almost always cave to those sort of arguments.
The amended version of the bill also requires that Medicaid enrollees be notified that their benefits may be cut if the federal government cuts funding for the program. Which, again, is more about giving Republicans cover to vote for the bill than protecting North Dakotans from this expansion.
I’ll admit, the strong committee vote doesn’t give me a lot of hope that the House will block this expansion despite assurances from legislators earlier this session that it would be killed. Which gets back to leadership. This is the sort of thing that happens when you have a left-of-center governor who sets a left-of-center agenda for the legislature.