Under the Dome

Congressional Democrats support NC Medicaid expansion

North Carolina congressional Democrats are supporting Gov. Roy Cooper’s move to add hundreds of thousands of people to Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income residents.

Cooper wants to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, and over the objections of Republican legislative leaders. Congressional Republicans from North Carolina wrote the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week, urging rejection of the expansion plan. They wrote that state law prevents Cooper from expanding Medicaid on his own, and that he’s violating the state constitution.

Democratic U.S. Reps. David Price, Alma Adams, and G.K. Butterfield followed up Tuesday with their own letter to CMS. Five hundred to 1,000 deaths could be avoided each year with expanded access to health screenings and preventive health care services through Medicaid, they wrote.

“There is little question that the General Assembly, in restricting access to health care for North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations, acted out of partisan ideology rather than concern for good governance,” they wrote.

In an interview, Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said no one should be surprised that Cooper is moving to expand Medicaid because he campaigned on the issue.

“This is something our state should have done long ago,” Price said.

With time running out on the Obama administration, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell suggested that the state could see quick action on its expansion request.

Medicaid covers about 1.8 million people in North Carolina: low-income children and some of their parents, the elderly and the disabled. Medicaid costs about $14 billion in the state, with the federal government picking up about two-thirds of the expense.. Cooper has said an expansion would allow 650,000 more people to qualify for health insurance.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner