Lawmakers debate over expanding medicaid - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Lawmakers debate over expanding medicaid

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The future of medicaid in North Carolina is up in the air.

Leaders are battling over whether to expand the program as part of the President's health care reforms.

Many Republican legislators are against the idea.

But Monday afternoon in Raleigh, doctors from across the state rallied in favor of expanding the system. 

Bernadette Bobo is one of millions of Americans currently without health insurance.

She lost her coverage when she was laid off last year.

Now she's surviving on her unemployment benefits.

"I would rather have my own job working, whatever it is instead of relying on the state," said she said.

Bernadette is in limbo because she doesn't qualify for the state's medicaid program, yet she can't afford health insurance.

Doctors from around the state say that's not fair.

They met in Raleigh Monday to call on lawmakers to expand the medicaid program to include more of the uninsured.

"We have to take care of these people anyway and right now we're not getting any money for it," said one doctor.

Last week, state Senators shot down a bill that would provide healthcare coverage to as many as 650,000 low - income residents.

The government pledges to pay the bill for the first 3 years and at least 90 percent after that.

But some Republican lawmakers don't trust the feds to pay what they've promised.

Regardless, doctors say the state will save money down the road because more people will be able to afford preventive care.

"This is a fiscal issue, this is fiscally irresponsible what they're trying to do. They're going to drive up costs for all of North Carolina. It's absolutely nutty," said one doctor.

For Bernadette and thousands of others without health insurance, right now doctors visits come with a huge cost.

"Any little thing that hurts,  I like to run to the doctor so I would have to go and yes, I would have to foot the bill," she said.

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis said he strongly opposes the expansion of the medicaid system but says the House will carefully review the bill to determine what is best for taxpayers.

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