At Greenville vaccine site, Cooper urges Medicaid expansion

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, March 20, 2021

By Ginger Livingston

The Daily Reflector

GREENVILLE — Gov. Roy Cooper urged legislators to finally expand Medicaid during a tour of a large scale vaccination clinic in Greenville on Friday.

The governor also said he will include $28 million in initial funding for East Carolina University’s new medical school in his pending budget and add the remaining $215 million in construction dollars in a bond he wants to pursue.

Cooper visited the Vidant/Pitt County Large Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center to see how vaccine distribution is proceeding in eastern North Carolina.

The center will have administered 50,000 doses of the vaccine as of Saturday, said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of Vidant Health, the primary health care provider in 29 eastern counties.

“The vaccination center has brought together all kinds of people and to hear the voices of people who have just got their shots, knowing that they are a little more protected, and all said they are coming back for their second one,” Cooper said.

But for all the renewed hope brought about through the vaccinations, the pandemic shined light on challenges that already existed.

“Too many North Carolinians don’t have health care coverage; too many North Carolinians don’t have access to high-speed internet. These problems need to be tackled and we have an extraordinary opportunity right now to do those things,” Cooper said.

The recent round of federal stimulus would provide North Carolinians with billions of dollars for Medicaid expansion, Cooper said, which would allow 500,000 to 600,000 more people to receive health care coverage if approved.

Cooper said his recent negotiations with Republican legislative leaders that produced a plan to reopen schools gives him hope that a similar deal can be struck on expansion.

Cooper’s last effort to expand Medicaid was rejected by Republican leaders and resulted in him vetoing the state budget in 2019 and the General Assembly being unable to overturn the action.