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Martin County board opposed to Medicaid bill

By Staff
Says proposed relief is not sufficient
By NIKIE MAYO
News Editor
WILLIAMSTON — The Medicaid relief plan moving forward in the state Senate is not good enough, Martin County commissioners said Wednesday night before they decided to oppose it in writing.
Commissioners decided by consensus to give North Carolina legislators a record of Martin County’s displeasure with the bill that calls for swapping some county revenues in exchange for a phasing out of the county’s share of Medicaid costs. Commissioners planned to fire off faxes to all members of the General Assembly and Gov. Mike Easley immediately after the meeting.
The latest available version of the Medicaid relief bill outlines a three-year plan under which the state would assume the counties’ share of Medicaid costs. North Carolina is the only state in the nation where counties are still required to pay a portion of Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
The first year of the Medicaid phase-out plan calls for counties to give about half of their corporate income tax, or ADM fund, back to the state. The ADM fund pays for county schools’ capital projects. In exchange for the ADM funds, the state would take over 25 percent of county-borne Medicaid costs.
“If I give you a dollar and then I take back 75 cents, I didn’t give you a dollar,” Commissioner Mort Hurst said. “To call this total, permanent relief is misleading.”
ADM funds would return to the counties after the first year of the Medicaid phase-out plan. By the second year, the state would assume half the counties’ Medicaid cost shares. Under the bill, the state would assume all Medicaid costs by July 1, 2009. In exchange, the counties would do a tax swap with the state, ultimately giving up 2 cents of local-option sales taxes.
Based on current projections, Martin County faces a $1.25 million shortfall in this year’s budget just to pay for Medicaid, Overman said.
Overman said the best-case scenario for counties would be for the state to assume all Medicaid costs immediately, but he believes that isn’t realistic.
Hurst said he thinks the counties are being “held hostage” by the state when it comes to Medicaid relief.