- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Advocates for expanding Medicaid to more of North Carolina’s poor and uninsured residents on Wednesday sought to keep up the pressure for Republican lawmakers to reverse course.

Pastors, physicians and Democratic state legislators accused GOP lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory of failing to live up to the Christian value of caring for the sick.

“I believe many of these persons are, in fact, good human beings. They’re Christians, and they probably have good families, are wealthy. But when it comes to poor people, they become sociopathic - no conscience, no feelings for those who are in need,” said John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

About 500,000 low-income North Carolinians could qualify for Medicaid if it is expanded. The federal government said it would cover 100 percent of the state’s expansion costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter.

The state and federal program covers 1.8 million North Carolinians and costs nearly $14 billion.

Senate leader Phil Berger and likely House speaker Rep. Tim Moore have said they are very skeptical about expanding the program after years of unexpected cost increases. McCrory signed into law early last year Republican-backed legislation banning the state from expanding Medicaid without General Assembly approval.

McCrory has said he’ll talk to lawmakers about possible options as the next two-year legislative session begins next month.

In response to the critics, McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch attacked the federal health care overhaul law pushed by President Barack Obama, which required states to expand Medicaid. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in upholding the law’s core requirement that requires most Americans to carry health insurance that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion. That accounted for about half the law’s expansion of insurance coverage.

The law took effect in 2010 with no Republican support.

“If a health care law had been passed in a transparent and bipartisan manner, North Carolina wouldn’t be in this position,” Tronovitch said. “These political groups should focus their inflammatory language on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress who forced Obamacare on us, instead of using it as a way to divide our state and gain political points.”

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