A federal judge has filed a restraining order blocking the federal government from fulfilling Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to expand Medicaid through executive action.
The order, filed by U.S District Judge Louise Flanagan, from the Eastern District of North Carolina, lasts for two weeks, covering the final days of President Barack Obama’s term, which expires at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.
State and federal officials have already challenged the restraining order.
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) sued the federal government to halt it from approving Cooper’s request for Medicaid expansion.
In a joint statement Berger and Moore said, “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.”
Cooper requested that the federal Department of Health and Human Services expand Medicaid in the state, in the face of a 2013 law that prohibits the governor from unilaterally expanding Medicaid.
Also in question is the increased cost to the state from expanding Medicaid; the power of the purse is held by the House in North Carolina and for Cooper to make a move that would cost the state millions would go against the state Constitution, Berger and Moore said.
In addition to requesting the restraining order, the two directly contacted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to request that Cooper’s plan be denied.
Berger and Moore also brought up the possible conflict of interest for Obama’s outgoing chief operating officer of CMS, Mandy Cohen, who has been tapped to join Cooper’s administration as his head of Health and Human Services.
“Even more troublingly, a major conflict of interest was raised earlier today when Cooper announced he had offered a high-ranking job in his administration to CMS’ outgoing chief operating officer, the same Obamacare proponent who is vetting the state’s application in the final days of the Obama administration,” the release said.
This is just the latest in a long line of attempts to have the state expand Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, but this is the first time that the pressure to expand Medicaid has come from the governor’s mansion. Former Gov. Pat McCrory supported the General Assembly in not expanding Medicaid.