NC Senate cuts child health coverage, says to Liddy Dole: “We love you!”

They say that really awful decisions often get made when they are done behind closed doors, in secret, and without much input from interested parties. Think Bay of Pigs, Castro's exploding cigar, Dick Cheney's energy policy, and so on. Well, the NC Senate finally unveiled its first crack at a budget this afternoon, a budget largely put together out of the public eye, and it shows. In this budget the honorable Senators eliminate all funding for NC's expanded sliding-scale premium child health insurance program for working parents. (The NC House had reduced funding to deal with federal issues, but kept enough in to keep the program ready to open next year with a new Congress – $1.7 million.)

Even worse, NC Senators, all of whom by the way have free – yes, that's right, they don't pay any premium – health care provided by the taxpayers through the NC Health Plan, propose in their budget to close NC Health Choice, NC's affordable health insurance plan for working parents that serves over 100,000 kids, to new families beginning September 1 of this year. Yes, families looking for affordable coverage for their kids will be told, "Too bad, mom and dad. We couldn't find the extra $8.3 million the House came up with, so we are shutting you out. Maybe next year." Or perhaps they should run for the NC Senate.

Now, the NC Senate is notorious for playing these sorts of silly games with health insurance coverage for kids. Put something outrageous in your proposed budget, get the public riled up, use it as a negotiating point. I understand political gamesmanship, but NC Democrats hurting children while they play like seven-year-olds trading for Pokémon cards seems a little much. Surely they could come up with some other points with which to lambast their colleagues in the House. The problem with a freeze on enrollment in Health Choice, or any health insurance program, is that word gets around, people stop applying, and enrollment nosedives. We did a freeze on Health Choice enrollment once before back in 2001 and it was a disaster. The program took a couple years to recover and many kids lost coverage. With the economy like it is, I don't think we need to hurt NC families, we need to help them – and denying them affordable health coverage sure isn't helping.

I can't understand why the debate in the Senate isn't over how many more kids we could help with affordable health coverage. For $13 million more in state money in addition to the $7 million allocated last year, we could thumb our noses at the federal government and start NC Kids Care immediately.

Finally, what the heck is the political calculation here? Will NC Senator Kay Hagan, currently running against US Senator Elizabeth Dole, vote for this budget? Health insurance for kids is one of her signature issues against Dole and she's going to give that up just when it looks like she might have a chance of winning? What about NC Senator and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, who made much hay in his campaign about his desire to make health coverage more affordable? And current Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue, who has made health coverage for all children a signature issue of her gubernatorial campaign, is now in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with this mess.

Why are we even having this debate? Nationally, Democrats and a large section of moderate Republicans are united around efforts to expand health insurance to more children. Why is the NC Senate running against this trend with policies that look more like those coming out of the Bush administration? I guess back where they draft the budget there aren't very many people asking these sorts of hard questions.


  1. Stephanie Bass

    June 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Can you imagine explaining this ‘civics lesson’ to a child? Sorry kid, no insurance for you– we’ve got more important priorities…. or, hey, kid, you know we’re just playing budget games… about something this important? No wonder people are cynical about government.

  2. Elaine Mejia

    June 16, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    The truth is that they could enough money for these programs with a blindfold on and one hand tied behind their backs. From what I can tell Adam you aren’t even asking for as much as the Senate is planning to give away to rich folks by relieving them of the great burden known as the NC Gift Tax. They found $18 million for that but they can’t find $8.3 million to keep SCHIP enrollment open? Let ’em have it.

  3. Marsha V. Hammond, PhD

    June 16, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    It would be useful to have the Bill number and information so we could look at it ourselves. I cannot google it up.

    If someone knows the URL for the bill, would you send it to me?

    thanks, marsha hammond, phd: [email protected]

    NC Mental Health Reform blogspot: http://madame-defarge.blogspot.com/

  4. Adam Searing

    June 16, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Both are available on the General Assembly’s homepage:


    They are the first two documents in the list under “what’s new”.

  5. Marsha V. Hammond, PhD

    June 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Adam: I am sorry to be a pest.

    There is no ‘what’s new’ that I can find on that web page. I am looking for a link above in your text and I do not see one. Thanks for help. Can you put the link somewhere on this page? Here is what is marked as ‘new’ on the NCLEG website (I guess it changes everyday but there is nothing in these big long fat titles that indicates anything about the matter you are writing about, best I can tell):

    New – Bill Text – Proposed Senate Committee Substitute for House Bill 2436, Modify Appropriations Act of 2007, to be presented at Senate Appropriations Committee, June 17, 2008 (PDF Document 770 KB)
    New – Report – Senate Appropriations Committee Report on the Continuation, Expansion and Capital Budgets for Proposed Senate Committee Substitute for House Bill 2436, Modify Appropriations Act of 2007 — June 17, 2008 (PDF Document 588 KB)
    thanks, marsha hammond, phd: [email protected]

    NC Mental Health Reform blogspot: http://madame-defarge.blogspot.com/

  6. […] Kids' Care, an program to cover children in families who earn up to 300 percent of poverty. Adam Searing makes that clear in a recent post here on the Pulse. […]

  7. […] at least, nothing bad is happening. Well, Adam Searing is indignant. He’s angry that the N.C. Senate decided to pull extra money that was slated to expand socialized Medicine…. Apparently, times is tight and they (the G.A.) can’t find the […]

Check Also

Oklahoma voters approve constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid

[Cross-posted from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s ...

Join Our Team

NC Policy Watch is hiring two new journalists to join our award-winning team. Click here for more information.  

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Although not the farmer, Sen. Tom McInnis of Richmond County owns the land A proposed poultry farm n [...]

The last four years have produced little in the way of affirmative policy accomplishments for the Tr [...]

As part of our ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the state judiciary, Policy Watch is [...]

Even with an increase in absentee voting, election directors expect a large in-person turnout. Since [...]

It’s been more than a quarter-century since Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed to serve on the U. [...]

The post QAnon(sense) appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Talk from Republican senators about "rules" and "precedent" is nothing but a smo [...]

Supreme Court hypocrisy, effort to infiltrate progressive NC groups ought to be the last straws It s [...]