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Legislators announce federal lawsuit over Cooper’s efforts to expand Medicaid

Senate President Phil Berger

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore

North Carolina legislative leaders filed a federal lawsuit Friday to stop Gov. Roy Cooper’s efforts to expand Medicaid, though he is not named in the court document.

The 20-page lawsuit [1] was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger are listed as plaintiffs and defendants include the federal and state Department of Health and Human Services.

The following is a joint statement from Moore and Berger:

“Unlike others, this is the first time we will be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and it is not a decision we’ve made lightly – but unfortunately our multiple attempts to amicably convince Gov. Cooper to follow the law have fallen on deaf ears. Cooper’s brazen decision to press on with his unconstitutional Obamacare expansion scheme and ignore the General Assembly’s constitutional role to make laws requires swift legal action.

“Today has raised even more serious questions about how closely Gov. Cooper and the Obama administration have coordinated to force an unconstitutional Obamacare expansion in the last few days of the president’s administration, with the governor offering a cabinet post to a senior Obama administration official leading the very organization tasked with reviewing his proposal.”

Earlier this afternoon, Cooper named Dr. Mandy Cohen [2], the chief operating officer at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Cohen is a longtime state lawmaker and a Medicaid expert [3].

She was most recently responsible for implementing national policies for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Federal Marketplace for the Affordable Care Act, according to the Governor’s Office.

Cooper announced last week [4] that he will expand Medicaid.

“It’s disappointing that legislative leaders are once again fighting the governor instead of working with him to bring better health care for hundreds of thousands of working people and more jobs to North Carolina,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter told WRAL [5] Friday evening. “The offer to work together still stands.”

In their media release, Moore and Berger said they have repeatedly explained that Cooper does not have the authority to unilaterally expand Medicaid without legislative approval. They also asked Congress and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week to disapprove the governor’s illegal request, the release states.