Health care reform plan uncertain after midterm

The newly gained Republican majority in the N.C. General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives could mean an uncertain future for health care reform.

The state created a health care panel to evaluate the reform and work on implementing it in North Carolina. But with Republicans announcing their plans to repeal health care overhaul, the panel’s work could no longer be needed.

“It’s really up to them if they want to go a different route,” said Pam Silberman, project director of the advisory panel and president and CEO of the N.C. Institute of Medicine.

“At this point we are still going forward and looking at the bill and seeing what it means for North Carolina,” she said.

The review began after a request from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Department of Insurance, Silberman said.

“A lot of it is looking at the different provisions to see how to best implement the law and looking for opportunities for funding,” Silberman said.

As health care continues to be contested on the federal level, state legislators await a decision as well.

N.C. Sen. William Purcell, D-Anson, co-chairman of the senate’s health care committee, said he expects changes to be made to the bill but not a repeal.

“I know a lot of the Republicans say they are going to repeal it,” Purcell said. “I don’t think they have the votes to override a veto.”

Purcell said he challenges Republicans to present their plan.

“My question is: What is their alternative for the poor folks who don’t have coverage?,” he said.

But N.C. Sen. Harris Blake, R-Harnett, member of the senate’s health care committee, said Republicans get a bad reputation that they don’t deserve.

“Republicans that I know and certainly myself get that notion of being mean-spirited and not caring about people who need help.”

Blake said President Barack Obama’s bill is not an adequate solution for the health care issue.

“I think that health care bill in Washington is an absolute disaster,” he said. “Hardly anybody knows what’s in that bill. It’s like a battle ship that’s lost its rudder.”

But Democrats say the health care bill is reducing costs.

“By covering a broad base of people, that’s the way you are able to keep the cost down,” Purcell said.

Blake said the N.C. Senate’s only connection to the bill is that it’s funding part of the cost of Medicaid.

“The state of North Carolina has an obligation to pay for 25 cents on the dollar cost of Medicaid. The federal government pays the other 75 cents.”

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