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Health care advocacy group: Cooper should veto any budget that does not include Medicaid expansion

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Some recent news reports indicate that Gov. Roy Cooper may be softening is longstanding opposition to any new state budget that does not provide for North Carolina to close the state’s health care coverage gap by joining 38 other states and expanding Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

Associated Press reported last night that:

North Carolina’s extended budget negotiations will come to a head next week with the House and Senate voting on a final spending plan, officials said Wednesday. Gov. Roy Cooper has suggested he could sign it into law, even though he wouldn’t get everything he wants, in particular Medicaid expansion.

A statement posted on Cooper’s Twitter handle Wednesday said that Republican leaders have informed him that the budget being released early next week will contain a “number of the governor’s priorities that were proposed in his budget and discussed in negotiations over the last few weeks, including increased education funding.”

But it will leave out the wholesale expansion of Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults that Cooper’s has sought since taking office in 2017, according to the tweet. House Speaker Tim Moore had already said his caucus wouldn’t support expansion, even as Berger was ready to accept it given the right situation.

The news is not sitting well with advocates at the Care4Carolina, one the largest and most bipartisan coalitions fighting for Medicaid expansion. Today the group’s executive Director, Erica Palmer, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of hardworking North Carolinians in our small towns, suburbs and cities, the nonpartisan Care4Carolina Coalition is gravely disappointed that the budget apparently hammered out by legislative leaders does not close our state’s deadly health insurance coverage gap — and we encourage Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill.

We appreciate the willingness of the Senate to include Medicaid expansion, but with our state struggling to emerge strong from the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government making closing the gap more attractive than ever, our coffers filled with a $7 billion budget surplus, and support from red and blue counties there is no reason for the House to insist North Carolina remain one of only 12 states refusing to support the health and productivity of its citizens. Gov. Cooper, please continue to fight for our citizens and refuse this budget until it keeps faith with hardworking North Carolinians by closing the coverage gap. We know you want what is best for the people of North Carolina, and closing the coverage gap is the best thing we can do for all our people.”

Having waited this long for such a vitally important action, it’s hard to see how Cooper can abandon the cause now unless he has obtained (or obtains) some concrete commitment from legislative leaders to approve expansion via another means in the very near future. Stay tuned.

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