Gov. Cooper announces bipartisan task force to address health care coverage

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Friday the formation of a bipartisan task force to discuss enhancing health care.

"I think this pandemic has also shown how our state can come together," Cooper said. "And I'm proud that North Carolina has responded in the way that we have. Our healthcare providers have gone above and beyond."

The North Carolina Council for Health Care Coverage, which is comprised of state and local leaders, as well as health officials and insurance representatives, met for the first time Friday morning.

"This is not about getting to a specific detailed budget numbers. It is about finding a way for us to move forward together on key principles for reform, and key goals that can improve access to care and do it in a way to encourage innovation, private sector engagement and fiscal sustainability," said Dr. Mark McClellan, the director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Heath Policy.

McClellan, who led the FDA under President George W. Bush's administration, expressed optimism in cohesion at the beginning of the meeting.

"This is a place that can lead the way in terms of healthcare innovation and working together on practical solutions to hard problems," McClellan said.

For years, Cooper has publicly supported Medicaid expansion, as North Carolina is one of just 12 states that has not adopted it.

"If you compare the insured to the uninsured, 41.5% opted not to see a doctor or healthcare professional compared to 11.9% who were on Medicaid," said Hemi Tewarson, a Visiting Senior Policy Fellow at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.

Tewarson explained the financial barriers in place to access healthcare.

"Insurance matters. Healthcare in this country is expensive. And if you don't have coverage, you're going to make different choices," Tewarson said.

Cooper has previously faced pushback in the General Assembly on expansion, which is unlikely to change with the current makeup. Multiple Republicans on the task force expressed a desire not to neglect other topics.

"Telemedicine is an integral part of meeting access needs, particularly in rural North Carolina. I hear a lot about the difficulties that rural access issues, because they can't recruit physicians, they can't recruit nurses, they can't recruit nurse practitioners," said Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Republican from Forsyth County.

Members will also review steps and policies implemented in other states that have increased health care coverage to see whether they can be applied here.

Council members on the Task Force include:

  • Rep. Gale Adcock, NC House of Representatives
  • Chip Baggett, CEO, NC Medical Society
  • Rep. Kristin Baker, NC House of Representatives
  • Rep. John Bell, NC House of Representatives
  • James Brigman, pastor
  • Cassandra Brooks, owner/operator, Little Believer's Academy
  • Senator Jim Burgin, NC Senate
  • Mandy Cohen, MD, Secretary, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Casey Cooper, CEO, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority
  • Rep. Carla Cunningham, NC House of Representatives
  • Andy Ellen, President & General Counsel, NC Retail Merchants Association
  • Don Flow, owner/CEO, Flow Automotive Companies
  • Mickey Foster, CEO, FirstHealth of the Carolinas
  • Tina Gordan, CEO, NC Nurses Association
  • Lisa Harrison, Director, Granville-Vance Public Health
  • Reg Henderson, VP, Government Relations, Lowe's
  • Senator Ralph Hise, NC Senate
  • Vivian Howard, restaurateur & author
  • Senator Brent Jackson, NC Senate
  • Senator Joyce Krawiec, NC Senate
  • Rep. Donny Lambeth, NC House of Representatives
  • Steve Lawler, President, NC Healthcare Association
  • Mehul Mankad, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Alliance Health
  • Kenya McNeil-Trice, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Education in Pediatrics, UNC
  • Tommy Newton, MD, Family Physician
  • Lynne Pierce, Executive Director, SAFE Food Ministry
  • Dave Richard, Deputy Secretary, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Sen. Gladys Robinson, NC Senate
  • Gary Salamido, President and CEO, NC Chamber
  • Merritt Seshul, MD, NC Medical Society Representative
  • Erica Smith, Executive Director, Care4Carolina
  • Tunde Sotunde, MD, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC
  • Margaret Weller-Stargell, President and CEO, Coastal Horizons
  • Rep. Donna White, NC House of Representatives
  • Dale Wiggins, Chairman, Graham County Board of Commissioners
  • Senator Mike Woodard, NC Senate
  • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center
  • Gene Woods, President and CEO, Atrium Health
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