The governor’s health-care panel recently released a set of guiding principles for medical management in the state. While legislative leadership agrees that something needs to be done to improve access to health-care coverage, Democrats and Republicans remain entrenched in their opposing positions on how to accomplish that.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper created the N.C. Council for Health Care Coverage in December in an effort to find consensus on health care access due to the divided nature of state government. While Cooper wants to expand Medicaid to many state residents through Obamacare, the GOP is concerned the $500 million estimated annual budget for the expansion is unnecessary and could greatly rise over the years.    

The council, composed of lawmakers, business leaders, medical professionals and more, held four online meetings over the past month to discuss the state of health-care coverage in North Carolina. While the panel didn’t recommend specific policy positions, it released a series of guiding principles that included premium reductions on the health insurance exchange, fiscal sustainability for hospitals, better access to substance abuse and mental health services and making insurance simpler. 

And, yes, Medicaid expansion was discussed, but those talks aren’t likely to lead anywhere.

“I don’t know that anybody’s mind has been changed about Medicaid expansion,” Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told the Associated Press. “We need to find ways to do a better job of providing them with access to coverage.”

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports that as of 2019, 17% of North Carolina residents lacked health insurance, the sixth greatest uninsured rate in the U.S. An almost equal percentage of North Carolinians were covered by Medicaid that same year, according to the council’s report. 

“The principles approved by the Council will serve as a strong foundation that we can build upon as we work to increase access to health coverage in our state,” Cooper said in a news release after the final meeting. “I look forward to working with legislative leaders in the months ahead to develop specific solutions that can help get coverage to the more than 1.2 million North Carolinians who don’t have it today.” 

Jordan Roberts, government affairs associate for the John Locke Foundation who presented to the panel, told Carolina Journal the council enjoyed robust discussion, with people from different viewpoints getting to share their thoughts. But “at the end of the day, I don’t think minds were changed.”

Robert doesn’t expect any significant legislative action in 2021 based on the guiding principles released by the council.

“If anything these discussions just reaffirmed people’s pre-existing viewpoints on health care reform,” he said.

Roberts said Democrats remain entrenched on Medicaid expansion while Republicans propose market-based reforms, such as eliminating certificate-of-need laws, scope-of-practice reform, creating small-business health associations and allowing out-of-state providers for telehealth services.

“We propose rollback of regulations that we know are keeping the cost of health care and health care procedures very high,” he said. 

Johnny Kampis is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.