RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina House gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to HB 76, "Access to Healthcare Options" on Wednesday.
The vote was 96-23 as Medicaid expansion in North Carolina moved a step closer to reality.
House Bill 76 would extend Medicaid coverage to the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are not currently eligible for Medicaid and have a household income equal to or less than 133% of the federal poverty level.
"This bill would extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of hard-working North Carolinians for which healthcare is still too costly for them to afford," House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland said. "This legislation also addresses the pressing mental health and behavioral health concerns in our state, using federal dollars already allocated for this purpose.
"We have a unique opportunity to expand coverage with federal funds already on the table," Moore added. "The stakes are high and the cost to the state is minimal. Finally, hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who have been getting by without healthcare coverage will have the peace of mind that an injury or illness will not cost them their livelihood."
The Medicaid expansion question has been discussed in the state for more than a decade, with Republicans in charge of the General Assembly usually blocking the idea and Democrats led by Gov. Roy Cooper pleading for them to enact it. But GOP heavyweights, in particular Senate leader Phil Berger, have come around to the idea recently.
NOTE: Video is from a previous report and will be updated.