Health insurance bill will be law without Cooper's signature

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina's Democratic governor said Sunday that a bipartisan health insurance measure will become law without his signature.

Gov. Roy Cooper had until midnight to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. The measure was pushed through the legislature with help from several of North Carolina's largest trade organizations.

Supporters said Association Health Plans will make coverage more affordable to persons such as farmers and small business owners.

But Cooper said he has concerns about the legislation.

"People have a right to be frustrated with the cost of private health insurance plans, but even though there is significant bipartisan support for this legislation, my concerns about the legality of these cheaper plans and their potential negative effects on health care prevent me from signing the bill," Cooper said.

The announcement came after pleas from groups including the North Carolina Chamber, NC Realtors and Farm Bureau for Cooper to back the bill. They said it would put health insurance in reach for many small-business workers or owners who can't afford insurance coverage on their own or offer it because the premiums are so high.

Supporters estimate the insurance changes could potentially benefit up to 110,000 people.

The measure will allow individual employers to come together based on similar trades or geographic locations and create health plans, as long as they have at least 500 people eligible for coverage.

Cooper vetoed a budget bill earlier in the summer in large part due to health insurance coverage namely the absence of Medicaid expansion. Differences over Medicaid expansion are the key reason why a budget impasse continues.

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