While the budget grabbed most of the headlines this week, lawmakers invested time in two health care reform measures. HB 2 – Protect Health Care Freedom was passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor’s desk for her signature or veto. The measure would require North Carolina to opt-out of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance as required by the federal Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, SB 33 – Medical Liability Reforms was introduced to members of the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee with a staff explanation of the bill. On Thursday, the Committee met again to hear public testimony (see separate story on SB 33 hearing). The next hearing on SB 33 is expected next Tuesday.
HB 115 – North Carolina Health Benefit Exchange Act was referred to the House Committee on Health and Human Services. Primary sponsors are Rep. Jerry C. Dockham (R, Davidson), Rep. Harold J. Brubaker (R, Randolph), Rep. Michael H. Wray (D, Northhampton, Vance, Warren), and Rep. Tom Murry (R, Wake). A separate bill, HB 126, was filed on Wednesday and sponsored by Rep. Verla Insko (D, Orange), Rep. Larry D. Hall (D, Durham), and Rep. Susan C. Fisher (D, Buncombe). A key difference between the two bills is the appointment and composition of the Board of Directors that will oversee the Exchange. A provision in the Affordable Care Act requires states to establish a Health Benefit Exchange to make qualified health plans available to qualified individuals and employers beginning January 1, 2014.