Governor Cooper Moving to Expand Medicaid Immediately | News

Governor Cooper Moving to Expand Medicaid Immediately


Attorney General Roy Cooper
  • Attorney General Roy Cooper
At the North Carolina Economic Forest Forum of state business leaders in Durham today, Governor Roy Cooper told a crowd that he plans to file an amendment to the state's Medicaid plan on Friday, which would immediately expand Medicaid to help insure tens of thousands of North Carolinians.

Cooper said he plans to file an amendment by Friday with the federal government amending the state's Medicaid plan, and the News & Observer reports that he will ask hospitals to support and pay for the state's share of expansion. In response, the N.C. Hospital Association said in a statement that they "believe coverage expansion can only happen through a bipartisan, collaborative effort."

Medicaid expansion was one of the central planks of the Affordable Care Act. For the first three years, through 2016, the federal government picked up 100 percent of the costs associated with expanding Medicaid, then 95 percent after 2017, then 90 percent after 2020. After a 2012 Supreme Court case, however, states were allowed to opt-out of Medicaid expansion without negatively impacting their present funding levels; as a result, nineteen states including North Carolina have not expanded Medicaid.

Last March, the Obama administration criticized North Carolina and other states for its failure to expand Medicaid. A report estimated that if the state expanded Medicaid, twenty-nine thousand fewer people would experience symptoms of depression and forty-two thousand more people would "report good, very good, or excellent health."

At the forum, the new governor said that expanding Medicare, along with repealing HB 2 and improving education, will help keep the state's economy moving.

"We have a foundation that is strong, and we have been seen for decades as a beacon in the South," Cooper told the crowd. "I promise you that as governor of this state, I will be an aggressive recruiter of good paying jobs."

As expected, Republicans are not happy about this. Senator President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement that he and other legislative leaders would ask Congress and the Center for Medicare Services to "disapprove Cooper's illegal power grab." (That sounds familiar.)

“Just days into his term as governor, Roy Cooper already intends to violate his oath of office with a brazenly illegal attempt to force a massive, budget-busting Obamacare expansion on North Carolina taxpayers," Berger said.

Berger's counterpart, Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue, applauded the decision. "This is a vital step in protecting North Carolinians who have been shut out of the process over the past three years," Blue said in a statement. "Not only would this aid nearly half a million people in this state that are currently uninsured, this is a sound economic move that has the potential to expand quality job opportunities in the healthcare industry and will provide a much needed boost to our rural communities.

Cooper follows a litany of Republican governors in states to make the same move, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence as governor of Indiana and former Republican presidential candidates John Kasich (Ohio) and Chris Christie (New Jersey). Last January, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, another Democrat dealing with Republican majorities in the state legislature, signed an executive order expanding that state's Medicaid program.

This is a developing story, check back here for more updates.

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