Officials in the Trump administration have no plans to act quickly on Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.
U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan issued an order on Friday refusing to grant an earlier request from Republican legislative leaders to put an emergency halt to the expansion plan. Flanagan stated in her order that federal health and human services officials appointed to leadership positions after President Donald Trump’s inauguration had said they planned to take no action for an 89-day period after Cooper’s request was submitted.
After 60 days, the parties to the lawsuit are to alert Flanagan whether “live dispute” exists. If so, Flanagan stated that she would set deadlines for the defendants in a lawsuit filed by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore seeking to halt the expansion plan.
Cooper was sworn in as governor on Jan. 1. During his first week in office, he sought permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic governor’s plan would allow hundreds of thousands more people to sign up for government health insurance.
The Obama administration pledged to act quickly on Cooper’s plan, but Flanagan issued a temporary restraining order that blocked any action before Republican Trump replaced Democrat Barack Obama. That restraining order requested by Berger and Moore expires Saturday.
Under Medicaid, the state and federal governments pay medical costs for low-income families and individuals, mostly poor children, some of their parents, the elderly and disabled. Expansion under Obama’s health care law would raise income limits to cover more people, including more childless adults.
Trump has signed an executive order directing government agencies to scale back as many aspects as possible of the Affordable Care Act, sowing confusion about the practical effect.
State leaders in North Carolina have refused to expand Medicaid coverage, and the Republican-dominated legislature passed a law in 2013 that bars the executive branch from expanding the program.
Cooper contends that state laws blocking expansion impinge on “the core executive authority” of the executive branch.
In court documents responding to the Berger and Moore lawsuit, state health and human services officials contend that state court, not federal court, was the appropriate venue for the challenge of Cooper’s actions.