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Cooper adds veteran lawmaker, Medicaid expert to cabinet

Posted January 13, 2017 1:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2017 4:10 p.m. EST

— Gov. Roy Cooper is almost finished naming his cabinet for his new administration, and he tapped a longtime state lawmaker and a Medicaid expert on Friday.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the chief operating officer at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will head the Department of Health and Human Services. Her job in Washington, D.C., included implementing national policies for the Affordable Care Act, which some observers have suggested could be a liability during her confirmation hearing in the Republican-controlled state Senate. But Cooper said she has received high praise from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

"You always have the politically charged atmosphere around this issue, and you're going to hear things being said. But when it comes down to getting the job done and getting people healthier, this is the right choice for North Carolina," Cooper said during a news conference.

DHHS is the most complex agency in state government, and it's about to begin a major Medicaid revamp, switching from paying providers for each service to paying them a flat fee per patient to limit costs and encourage providers to keep people healthy.

Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, is Cooper's pick to head the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. Before his decade in the state House, including the last four years as minority leader, he served 16 years as a commissioned officer in the Marines and the Marine Reserves.

Cooper still has a few cabinet appointments to announce, including the departments of Revenue and Natural and Cultural Resources. He's expected to make those announcements Monday.