Hagan defends Medicaid expansion and goes after Tillis

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., on Thursday defended the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, saying it would provide health coverage for 500,000 people in the state who need it.

In an interview Thursday, Hagan said her support for the expansion underscored a big difference between her and Thom Tillis, the Republican state House speaker who hopes to unseat her in November.

“That’s just one example of Thom Tillis not understanding North Carolina and not understanding North Carolina values,” Hagan said.

The General Assembly, with Tillis in the leadership, turned away Medicaid expansion for 500,000 people in the state that would have been paid for by federal funds. Republicans have made Hagan’s support for the Affordable Care Act one of their top lines of attack against her since the fall. Polls in the state showed the law was unpopular.

Asked if she’d defend the law, Hagan said, “I voted for it. I think there are common sense fixes that must be made to this bill. But I also talked to people all across North Carolina who have seen the difference that that has made in their lives.”

She said the fact that enrollments in North Carolina are the fifth highest in the nation “shows the need for affordable health care for people in our state.”

Tillis, she said, “is not being up front about what it is that he wants. He says he likes some of the good things, but . . . all he’s saying is repeal, repeal, repeal. That would take us back to a time where if an individual had a pre-existing condition, you would no longer have access to health care. A third of the people in North Carolina when they would sign up on the individual market prior to the Affordable Care Act were turned away. Women automatically paid more than men, and our seniors paid more for prescription drugs.”

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said the GOP Senate candidate has been clear that he wants to repeal the health care law first and then talk about solving health care problems with market-based ideas, such as allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and setting up high-risk pools.

He also said that Hagan had said often that people could keep their health care plans if they liked them, which proved not to be the case for many.

Earlier Thursday, at the Senate confirmation hearing of Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Hagan spoke about the estimated 500,000 impoverished state residents who fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, but would gain coverage under the health care law’s Medicaid expansion.

Currently, they earn too much to qualify for health coverage under the Medicaid program, which serves the poor and disabled, but not enough to get federal subsidies to help purchase insurance on the state's marketplace.

North Carolina is one of 24 states that chose not to expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would pay all of the costs for new enrollees for the first three years and no less than 90 percent of their costs thereafter.

Shaw contended that state Democrats, including Hagan when she served in the state Senate, mismanaged Medicaid in the past and left a "broken" system that needed to be fixed before it could be expanded. He said the state could not be certain that the federal government would pay for the expansion as it said it would or that the Affordable Care Act would work.

At her hearing, Burwell testified that people in the so-called "coverage gap' will not have to pay the penalty for violating the law’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine for noncompliance.

Hagan, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which held the Burwell hearing, had requested an HHS Inspector General and Government Accountability Office review of the botched HealthCare.gov rollout last fall. She asked Burwell what lessons she learned from the flawed website launch and how she would improve management of the federal marketplace portal.

Burwell said the government is working on ways to improve federal procurement and project accountability.

In the interview after the hearing, Hagan said that besides the Medicaid issue, in the contest against Tillis she would focus on his record in the state legislature: his support for tax cuts for the wealthy, his opposition to teacher raises and the cuts in unemployment insurance.

"I talk to people in North Carolina every week," and middle-class families are still struggling, she said. "North Carolina needs a voice like mine to speak on behalf of North Carolinians.”

Alleging that Tillis “is bought and paid for by the special interests,” Hagan said, “I think there will be a huge contrast in this race."

Tony Pugh of the Washington Bureau contributed.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the economy at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 24, 2014, on the final day of his three-day West Coast trip. Striking a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, Obama is demanding "economic patriotism" from American corporations that seek overseas mergers to avoid U.S. taxes. Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing to severely limit such deals, a move resisted by Republicans who argue the entire corporate tax code needs an overhaul.

    Obama: Offshore 'tax inversions' are unpatriotic

    President Barack Obama says a loophole that lets companies dodge U.S. taxes by moving their headquarters overseas is unpatriotic.

  •  
FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014, AT 12:01 A.M. EDT - This combination of campaign provided photos and staff photos shows Congressional candidates in the 2014 Michigan primary election. Top row, from left, are Tom Whitmire, Fred Upton, Douglas Radcliffe North, and Tim Walberg. Bottom row, from left, are Mike Bishop, Tom McMillin, Ken Darga and Susan Grettenberger.

    Michigan primary is start of US House shakeup

    Michigan primary voters will begin determining what could be one of the bigger shake-ups in the state's congressional delegation in years, a revamp that could become even larger if business-supported Republican challengers can topple tea party-backed congressmen.

  •  
FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014, AT 12:01 A.M. EDT - This combination of campaign provided photos and staff photos shows Congressional candidates in the 2014 Michigan primary election. Top row, from left, are Tom Whitmire, Fred Upton, Douglas Radcliffe North, and Tim Walberg. Bottom row, from left, are Mike Bishop, Tom McMillin, Ken Darga and Susan Grettenberger.

    Michigan primary is start of US House shakeup

    Primary voters will begin determining what could be one of the bigger shake-ups in Michigan's congressional delegation in years.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category