Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued a statement this week in response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement that he would attempt to expand Medicaid, as authorized under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Cooper indicated he would accomplish this by executive action, a move that would directly oppose state law on the issue.
In 2013 a state law was passed that banned the executive branch from expanding the program.
“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. “Cooper is three strikes and out on his attempt to break state law. He does not have the authority to unilaterally expand Obamacare, his administration cannot take steps to increase Medicaid eligibility and our Constitution does not allow him to spend billions of state tax dollars we don’t have to expand Obamacare without legislative approval.”
Berger, in conjunction with Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) sent a letter to the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking that Cooper’s “illegal request for expansion” be denied.
The letter said that Cooper “does not have the legal authority to submit” a state plan for expansion.
The letter also says that the North Carolina Constitution preserves the power of the purse for the General Assembly and the expansion of Medicaid in the state would cost an additional estimated $600 million annually, meaning that Cooper does not have the authority to request the expansion.
“Governor Cooper does not have the legal authority to submit this State Plan Amendment to expand Medicaid,” the letter said. “Additionally, the most recent estimate shows Medicaid expansion would require a state commitment of roughly $600 million each year, which would represent a significant increase to the Medicaid budget. Even if the governor had the authority to submit the amendment, such a decision should not be made unilaterally without the consultation of the Legislature.”
Cooper announced his intention to expand Medicaid while addressing a group of business leaders at an economic forum Wednesday morning.
Cooper specified the he would file an amendment to the state Medicaid plan by Friday.
But Cooper’s actions may be all for naught if incoming President-elect Donald Trump can make good on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Criticism for the expansion focuses in part on the groups that would find themselves eligible for Medicaid under the expansion, which would largely include childless adults. Medicaid is traditionally for ensuring that children of low-income families have medical care. Critics fear that the newly covered population would crowd out more desperate populations.
Currently Medicaid covers 1.9 million North Carolinians and costs $14 billion a year, two-thirds of which is paid for with tax revenue through the federal government.