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Judge temporarily halts N.C. Medicaid expansion effort

Raleigh, NC (AP) — A federal judge late Saturday (Jan. 14) temporarily blocked the U.S. government from quickly approving any proposal by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper designed to expand Medicaid coverage to potentially hundreds of thousands of uninsured people through President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The order issued by U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan came a day after Republican legislative leaders sued to block federal regulators from granting the expansion that the new Democratic governor has started seeking.

Earlier Saturday, lawyers for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger wrote Flanagan that they were worried federal Medicaid regulators could implement the expansion as early as Monday in the final days of the Obama administration. A 10-day window after Cooper formally told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of his proposal to allow public comment ends today, according to a court document attached to the lawmakers’ request for the delay.

The order for now lasts two weeks, which could defer the matter to regulators in the administration of Donald Trump, who backs the Republican-led Congress in wanting to repeal the health care overhaul that provides the expansion offer. There’s no word yet on a lawsuit hearing. The North Carolina GOP leaders have requested a longer block.

The GOP leaders who sued have opposed expansion. They say the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aren’t allowed to grant Cooper’s request because it would violate federal laws and the U.S. Constitution. At the heart of their argument is a 2013 state law saying an expansion request specifically requires formal legislative support, which lawmakers say Cooper lacks.

“The governor’s application to expand Medicaid is no more a valid representation of the state’s interest than would be an application submitted by the North Carolina Supreme Court or even a citizen of Idaho,” lawyers for Berger and Moore wrote Saturday

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