The legislature technically decided Wednesday to put off accepting federal funding for health care expansion, which would include more low-income individuals under Medicaid. A series of bills were voluntarily deferred, both in the House and Senate, to be taken up next week. A bill by Rep. Barbara Norton was involuntarily deferred - that’s typically a death sentence for a bill.
The representatives that voted to shelve Norton’s bill did so because they’re unsure of what will happen if they accept the money - despite that the Legislative Fiscal Office testifying that the program would initially save the state money.
Rep. Lance Harris iss concerned that federal support isn’t reliable. He points to last year, when federal funding for hospitals was cut in part because of a clerical error that resulted in mid-year cuts to healthcare.
Harris said the Legislative Fiscal Office, which calculates the budget impact of bills for the state, has been wrong too. Like when they estimated the alternative fuel tax credit would cost the state 900 thousand dollars over five years. “This year the governor had to suspend that program because we were paying 7.6 million in a 30 day period," Harris said, "so sometimes the numbers can be wrong. Bear with us if we’re being deliberative, because I want the numbers to be right.”
Rep. Regina Barrow, a supporter of the Medicaid expansion, said every decision the legislature makes is a gamble. “Everything is an uncertainty," Barrow said, "and what I don’t like is the hypocrisy in terms of when it’s convenient, when it’s convenient to be uncertain.”
Representative Julie Stokes pointed out that earlier this session, lawmakers bucked the governor’s tax reform plans because they were uncertain of the consequences.