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BREAKING: Gov. Cooper announces he will expand Medicaid, calls for full repeal of HB2, raising teacher pay to national average

Roy Cooper at Economic Forecast forum

Gov. Roy Cooper addressing this morning’s Economic Forecast forum

In a startlingly decisive step that took place on just the fourth day of his term in office, Governor Roy Cooper announced this morning that he will take immediate action to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Cooper’s action, which has long been sought by health care advocates and important sectors in the health care industry, would make North Carolina the 33rd state (including the District of Columbia) to adopt Medicaid expansion. Click here to see the current list.

Cooper’s action seems certain to spur howls of protest from Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups that have long derided Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (aka”Obamacare”) as “socialized medicine.” Four years ago, at the outset of the administration of Cooper’s predecessor, Pat McCrory, North Carolina legislators enacted a law that purports to prevent the Governor from acting unilaterally to expand Medicaid. Cooper, however, believes that he has authority to act in his role as the state official empowered to craft and negotiate the “Medicaid waiver” plan that North Carolina is currently negotiating with federal officials. It is known that McCrory engaged in conversations with the Obama administration on such a possible move.

In order to underscore his belief that Medicaid expansion will provide an enormous boost to the state economy — particularly in rural areas — Cooper made his announcement at an “economic forecast forum” sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina Bankers Association. In his remarks, he stated that expansion would bring $2-4 billion in new investment to the state, create between 20,000-40,000 jobs, lower health care costs for small businesses and public entities and “light a fire” under rural communities while stopping rural hospitals from being “bulldozed.” Cooper also cited the fact that Medicaid expansion has been embraced by a bevy of conservative Republican governors across the country, including Indiana Governor and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, Ohio’s John Kasich and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. In response to expected criticisms from conservatives, Cooper also pointed out that North Carolinians are “already paying” for Medicaid expansion in those other states and that indigent care is happening now, but in the most expensive and inefficient way possible — i.e. via hospital emergency rooms.

While Cooper noted that 95% of the cost of expansion would come from the federal government, he acknowledged that North Carolina would need to come up with several million dollars in state funds to cover the other 5%. To do this, Cooper suggested the possibility of a straight state appropriation, but also touted the idea of “self-assessment” whereby hospitals — a group he noted would benefit enormously from expansion — contributed the necessary funds.

Cooper’s bold action comes, of course, at a highly confusing and fraught time for Medicaid expansion, and the Affordable Care Act itself. President-elect Trump is pledged to “repeal Obamacare” in the early days of his administration and the new Congress has already been taking steps in that direction as well. That said, there remains enormous uncertainty as to the form any such repeal might take and how it will impact states that have already expanded Medicaid. Add to all this the likelihood that state GOP lawmakers can be expected to challenge Cooper’s action — perhaps even in court — and it would not be an understatement to say that the final outcome of this story is very uncertain. All that said, Cooper’s action this morning was a striking departure from his predecessor and perhaps the strongest indication yet that the new governor intends to “give as well as he gets” in the impending battles with conservative leaders at the General Assembly.

In addition to announcing his bold action on Medicaid expansion, Cooper also pushed strongly for two other high profile policy changes in his remarks. First, he called again on state lawmakers to repeal the state’s controversial LGBT discrimination law, HB2, in its entirety. Noting that such a repeal had only been narrowly missed during last month’s special session on the topic, Cooper stated unequivocally that “the votes are there” for repeal in both houses of the General Assembly. The only roadblock, he stated, was the refusal of Senate and House leaders to allow such a vote on a “clean” bill that includes no delay in the effective date. Cooper, who received applause for his statements on this subject, said he was confident that a bipartisan majority of Republicans and Democrats exists in both houses to take such action. He said that his simple, three-word message to legislative leaders was “let them vote.”

Cooper’s third announcement of the morning was a call for state lawmakers to join him in a plan to raise teacher salaries to the national average in four years. Teacher pay and education funding in general has, of course, been major bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats in recent years. After imposing cuts to funding for several years over loud Democratic opposition, Republicans and Gov. McCrory suddenly embraced the idea of raising teacher pay prior to the 2016 election. Even with the modest bumps provided last year, however, North Carolina teacher pay and overall education funding remain well below national averages. It remains to be seen whether Republicans will express any interest in joining Cooper in this new effort.

Stay tuned to The Progressive Pulse and the main NC Policy Watch website for updates on this developing story.

16 Comments


  1. Randy S.

    January 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I am thankful that the governor see’s the need for continued pay increases of teachers but there are many other state employee’s who are the bread and butter of the state. Instead of trying to keep up with the national average of other states, would it not make sense to give overall pay raises to all employees based on education and years of service. Like many other companies new employee’s are making as much or more as other state employees who are at retirement age. I fully understand that inflation and other financial aspects play a big part in this but there should be some middle ground.

  2. Jim Cummings

    January 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    My Gosh, what a breath of fresh air is our New Governor in these times of such hateful and angry distastes for the welfare of all the citizens of our wonderful State.

    I managed programs in several areas of state government for decades and lived through a number of schemes to provide benefits for employees. Please do not support any program to provide pay raises “based on education …” There are many, many state employees who are highly skilled in their work responsibilities but may not have engineering or graduate degrees. I saw much too often special incentives given to the diploma hanging on the office wall rather than the work load successfully carried. Reward excellence in work, not whether one stayed in school a few more years.

  3. Shelia Butts

    January 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I applaud his efforts for raises for teachers but what about all state employees who serve this state as well as the retirees who gave many years to the state of NC? Why is it that this group is always passed over? You want to really make a first impact as our new Govenor, then remember all the employees and retirees who serve this great state – not just teachers!

  4. Tammy

    January 4, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I am a state employee and feel as if all state employees need across the board raises not just teachers we all are below income per economy give everyone the same % raise stop picking and choosing who gets what we all deserve the same as NC state employees!

  5. Christine Ganis

    January 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Such a breath of fresh air! Bravo! Every now and then we hear from the Secretary of Commerce (Skvarla) here in the Sandhills (Pilot newspaper) how HB2 has NOT hurt the state economy – that we still attract companies. The later may be true, but repealing HB2 and protecting ALL workers has to be better for ALL North Carolinians. When I asked Governor Cooper about company incentives, he said what I suspected – money wasted, as they would come anyway.

  6. MiserableOldFart

    January 4, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Wow. There is actually some sanity left in the south. And a democrat with stones to boot! Kudos!

  7. Hoover Jones

    January 4, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    By the time this governor goes on his spending spree there will not be any money left as usual bad policies and bad people even Satan wouldn’t let him in hell either .

  8. Marilyn Ackerman

    January 4, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I may even be able to consider moving back to my birth state!!
    Wouldn’t that be remarkable?

  9. Aletha Pardue

    January 5, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Wow! Finally somebody with some sense. I had my doubts about North Carolina. They seemed to be in a competition with Alabama to see which state was worse. Glad to see they are moving forward and not backward like the rest of the country. I used to be proud of my home state. I hope I can have that pride again soon.

  10. Linda Lindner

    January 5, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Thank you Governor Cooper for getting on top of these issues so quickly.
    I truly have been embarrassed to say I live in NC the past few years. Let’s get us beck to the wonderful state we can be.
    This is a great start.

  11. Norman Bossert

    January 5, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Reading about the governor’s intentions is like light at the end of the tunnel. I am confident that he will begin to right our ship of state.

  12. Pat Evans

    January 5, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I live in Texas and we are North Carolina on sterioids!!! We have a nut for a gov no expansion of Medicaid low wages and foster care system in the ditch!!!we have hundreds of children sleeping in the offices of state welfare offices and our idiot Dan Patrick going on TV holding young children under both arms asking people to sign up for foster care!!!!

  13. Edison Carter

    January 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Wow… Could this be the beginning of the return of sanity to the Tar Heel State?

    Yes it is.

    Now time to get rid of the rest of the Tar Heel Teabilly Taliban in the state Legislature and Senate in Raleigh. 2018 is around the corner, so let’s get working on that!

  14. William Burnett

    January 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    I retired from NC DHHS and supervised several Employees who had comparable requrements as teachers but were paid much less for twelve months work than many teachers were paid for a ten month contract. The Area and Employees I supervised was the same as the First Sergeant with the Highway Patrol but was paid approx 60 % what he drew. The State needs to seek parity within all divisions and all state employees.

  15. Gary Amstutz

    January 7, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Students could attend college and then go directly to Wall Street to make millions or become a teacher and be poor for the rest of their adult life. Is this really the choice we want to put in front of our new graduates? No! Support pay increases for public workers based on education and length of service. And then let’s drain the swamp that is Wall Street into the Pacific Ocean where it belongs.

  16. Joe Kimmel

    January 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Why do I believe this man is a Republican in our present state of hate? Just read his words.

    HOOVER JONES

    January 4, 2017 at 7:08 pm
    By the time this governor goes on his spending spree there will not be any money left as usual bad policies and bad people even Satan wouldn’t let him in hell either .

    Mr. Jones, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on this as you may be just another angry white man whose life will not improve as you think it might under Trump. Repeal and replace? Your Party of No in DC is looking to do that. Repeal and then 52 card pick up because there is no plan to replace because the bill had many good features and was designed by a man named Romney. On other points HB2 has been disastrous to our economy. It continues to drive away business and special events gatherings that bring in money to Convention centers, arenas, restaurants, hotels and so much more. The business world that was driven away with companies refusing to either come here or expand in NC are real. The money is real. The loss continues because our legislature made a deal with Charlotte to overturn HB2 but failed when they changed the rules and tried to make sure that another municipality didn’t adopt a similar bill to the one Charlotte reminded. Shame on the power grabbers in Raleigh that continue to waste $$ and time by calling special sessions and lying to constituents of NC. We need fair elections not laws that do not provide new provisions targeting African Americans with almost surgical precision. We need fairness to all citizens no matter their race and let people exercise their right to vote with lack of gerrymandering to unbalanced districts.

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