- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Advocates for seniors and the disabled urged N.C. House lawmakers on Tuesday to reject a state Senate budget that could take more than 15,000 disabled and elderly people off the Medicaid rolls.

About 50 people spoke out against the Senate budget plan Tuesday at a news conference held by the N.C. Coalition on Aging, comprising 30 groups from across the state.

Lou Wilson of the N.C. Association of Long Term Care Facilities said the Medicaid cuts would force adult-care homes to discharge residents whose benefits are cut because of a lack of money to operate the facility.

“My fear is … that there will be a human tragedy that is totally unanticipated in this state and we’re going to be asking the House to please not concur with this budget,” Wilson said. “We’re going to be asking the Senate to please reconsider.”

Wilson says shifting medical coverage for the elderly and disabled under the Affordable Care Act would not work because there is no long-term insurance available. She says the state cannot afford to eliminate an entire continuum of long-term care, especially when more people need it.

About 1.8 million people receive Medicaid services in North Carolina, the proposed Senate cuts would be less than 1 percent of enrollment.

Kate Castillo, president of the coalition, said the elderly population is expected to double in the state in the next 20 years, which leaves a greater need for Medicaid services.

“Now is not the time to cut services when we actually have an increase in the need for these services,” she said.

Representatives from the coalition also lamented cuts to Home and Community Care Block grants, which fund local nonprofits such as Meals for Wheels, and asked lawmakers to reinstate Medicaid coverage for those who qualify as “Medically Needy,” a designation they said is used as a last resort for those who cannot afford to pay their medical expenses.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, said in an interview Tuesday that he’s got “very strong concerns” about the potential enrollment decrease the Senate budget recommends. His budget proposal didn’t contain such provisions.

“I want to help people that can help themselves, but I also want to help people who cannot help themselves,” he told The Associated Press.

Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, a House budget writer on Health and Human Services issues, said he does not support the Medicaid changes in the Senate budget, and said it slows momentum on reforms that have been underway for years.

“I’m a little concerned about the Senate plan and how it might slow down to the point that we lose a lot of momentum,” he said.

Budget writers in the House, including Lambeth, filed a bill last month that would create Medicaid pilot programs in an urban and rural section of the state, and give medical providers an opportunity to serve patients themselves with a fixed dollar amount. Another budget writer and sponsor of that bill, Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, declined to comment on what the House bill outlines for Medicaid

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, senior co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House version of the budget would be approved by the end of next week. He said legislative leaders were still deciding exactly when the proposal would be made public.



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