Governor Cooper headed for showdown with Republicans over Medicaid

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Governor Roy Cooper

North Carolina's newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper appears headed for a showdown with Republicans who control the General Assembly.

In a speech Wednesday at the 15th Annual Economic Forecast Forum, Cooper said he will take action toward expanding Medicaid to more people in North Carolina under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, even though a Republican state law prevents him from seeking expansion unilaterally.

Cooper said he would file paperwork with federal regulators by Friday to start the process.

A 2013 state law says North Carolina won't expand Medicaid under the federal law and bars attempts unless the General Assembly says otherwise. Cooper told reporters that state law invades the governor's "core executive authority."

Senate leader Phil Berger called Cooper's move a "brazenly illegal attempt to force" Medicaid expansion upon the state. He said Cooper doesn't have the authority to unilaterally expand Medicaid and said lawmakers will ask federal Medicaid regulators to reject any expansion request Cooper makes.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader John Bell also said state law prevents Cooper from unilaterally requesting more Medicaid coverage. They labeled Cooper's move a proposed tax increase. Cooper said the state's monetary match to provide the federal coverage could either come from taxpayers or an assessment on hospitals.

Cooper's announcement comes as President-elect Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders vow to repeal Obama's law. Still, Cooper says his administration found people in Washington "very receptive" to his action.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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politics2016 electionroy coopermedicaidRaleigh
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