RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Senate Leader Phil Berger’s big admission that he had changed his mind about expanding Medicaid still hasn’t changed the program’s status in North Carolina.

Berger and state Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville) introduced a bill earlier this session to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act and broaden programs in ways they said they believed would offer significant help for health care in rural counties. That bill passed the Senate with near-unanimous support.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden)
State Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem)

Both said at the time that they were among the last people you might have expected to have changed their minds about the program, but apparently the North Carolina House has outlasted them.

The House didn’t even take up the Senate’s remake of a bill it had passed last year – House Bill 149 – and instead rewrote a Senate bill (SB 408 ) into a plan to order the Department of Health & Human Services to study various aspects of the plan and report back in December, when lawmakers would reconvene and reconsider.

But that idea – a mimic of when a committee’s work led to the House’s bill in 2021 – isn’t going anywhere before lawmakers adjourn this weekend.

“The Senate does not intend to take up the House’s proposal to create another committee to study Medicaid expansion,” Lauren Horsch, spokesperson for Berger, said in an email. “The Senate’s bill – House Bill 149 – takes the necessary steps to expand Medicaid and implements needed health care reforms.

“Sen. Berger remains open to negotiating with the House on Medicaid expansion.”

Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), the sponsor of last year’s HB 149 and this year’s SB 408, had said this bill “is a little different. But should accomplish the same goal.”

The House approved it, 102-6, and sent it to the Senate, which assigned that bill to the Rules Committee and oblivion for the short session.

“If there is a person in North Carolina who has spoken out against Medicaid expansion more than I have, I’d like to meet that person,” Berger (R-Eden) said during a press briefing late last month. “I’d like to talk about why my view has changed. This is the right time and the right thing to do.”

Said Krawiec: “I’m a long-time opponent, but this is the right time and the right thing. It’s a rescue plan for our hospitals, especially rural hospitals.”