During a recent interview with Politico, a Washington news service, Gov. Roy Cooper indicated he holds out hope he’ll be able to work out a “grand bargain” with the Republican leaders of the General Assembly on his top legislative priorities — particularly expanding health care to more than 500,000 North Carolinians who don’t now qualify for Medicaid.

Senate leader Phil Berger was quick to saw off the Democratic governor’s olive branch.

“I don’t think I’ve ever indicated that there is something that, if we get this, I’d agree to Medicaid expansion,” he said. “My opposition to Medicaid expansion has been I think it’s bad policy. … Nothing I’ve seen has led me to believe that there’s a reason to change my position on that.”

We don’t know what Berger has, or has not, been looking at. But he clearly hasn’t been looking very hard.

First of all Berger was not elected to cut off federal dollars, to North Carolina citizens that are paying federal taxes to support the program he cut off. That takes a lot of chutzpah.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, there is Medicaid expansion funding in the recently enacted federal COVID-19 relief legislation. Those are dollars — estimated from between $1.7 billion to $2.4 billion — North Carolina taxpayers send to Washington and won’t come back without being used to help keep more North Carolinians healthy.

It would provide a significant reduction in the uncompensated care costs hospitals have to shoulder for treating uninsured patients. Hospitals in Louisiana saw those costs reduced by a third as a direct result of that state’s expansion of Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid in the state would generate thousands more jobs and increase “business activity by $11.7 billion over three years, between 2020-2022. It’s money that could be spent on education, infrastructure and other needs.”

It would provide much-needed financial support for struggling rural hospitals. “Medicaid expansion is likely the single fastest way to put these facilities on more solid economic ground.”

North Carolina voters overwhelmingly (77%) support Medicaid expansion — including 64% of Republicans; 76% of unaffiliated voters and 83% of Democrats.

North Carolina remains one of just a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid. Virginia’s done it. Kentucky’s done it. So have Arkansas and Louisiana. Indiana did it when former Republican Vice President Mike Pence was its governor.

Wyoming’s overwhelmingly Republican state legislature earlier this month saw Medicaid expansion legislation advance to the full state Senate.

Any objective view of the facts shows that there is a mountain of evidence demonstrating the need and wisdom of expanding Medicaid.

Berger takes the position — that even though a large majority of North Carolina citizens (Republican and Democrat) support expansion; it is largely paid for by somebody else; it will save lives, improve health outcomes; prevent personal bankruptcies; help rural hospitals; boost the economy; and grow jobs – it is just bad policy.

Berger is standing against the facts and the welfare of North Carolina citizens.

The emperor has no clothes.

Today’s editorial is from Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh. The views expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.

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