Governor wants Medicaid expansion to be part of state budget talks

Updated: Jun. 18, 2019 at 6:25 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Gov. Roy Cooper wants the state budget to include money for expanding Medicaid and he hopes the third time is the charm for getting the initiative passed.

Cooper was in Wilmington on Tuesday talking to childcare workers at Masonboro Baptist Church one day before state legislators are scheduled to meet at the governor's mansion to discuss Medicaid.

Republicans have been resistant to Medicaid expansion. Senate Leader Phil Berger said it would add an estimated 500,000 adult's to the state's Medicaid program and force current enrollees to compete with them for healthcare.

"It has to be a part of these budget negotiations. So what I'm telling (Republican leaders) is, let's talk about this," the governor said. "There are different ways you can do it. I mean, Republicans introduced legislation that expanded Medicaid but in a little bit of a different way.

"So let's talk about how we can do it. Let's stop these games of writing letters to each other and let's sit in a room and solve this."

Cooper said he met with the preschool teachers on Tuesday because they fall into the group of people who can't afford private health insurance but also don't qualify for Medicaid. One in five childcare workers does not have health insurance, according to the governor.

“We’re talking about negotiating a $24 billion budget, but we have the opportunity to bring billions more to N.C. and help insure five to 600,000," he said. "It has to be part of this discussion.”

The governor said he hopes a public school construction bond and raising teacher pay will also be part of the state budget discussions.

There has been talk that the governor will veto the state budget if Medicaid expansion is not included but he did not answer that question directly Tuesday. This initiative failed to pass twice before but Cooper seemed confident it will pass this time around.

According to a tweet from Senate Leader Phil Berger, expanding medicaid would add an estimated 500 thousand adults to the state’s medicaid program, forcing current enrollees to compete with them for healthcare.

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