In the ongoing battle to get North Carolina elected leaders to think ahead when it comes to investing in public systems and structures, two editorials in particular were noteworthy over the weekend. The Wilmington Star News had yet another fine essay decrying the state’s heartless and self-destructive refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This is from the editorial:
“North Carolina is set to throw away $21 billion between now and 2020, and a lot of people are going to die as a result.
Under the Affordable Care Act — the dreaded “Obamacare” — states have the option to expand Medicaid coverage to cover everyone earning no more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $33,000 a year for a family of four. The federal government will cover some 90 percent of the costs of this expansion, while the state pays the rest.
Nineteen states have opted not to expand — including, by act of the legislature in 2013, North Carolina. Legislative leaders have expressed worries about Medicaid costs running out of control — it does cost a fair chunk of the state’s budget. Also, many of the Republicans don’t like Obamacare generally, and want to see it go away.
But get this: As an “unexpanded” state, North Carolina is paying 34 percent of Medicaid costs, to the federal government’s 66 percent. That $21 billion is how much we’re forfeiting in federal funding. In effect, we’re clipping our noses to spite our face….
It’s not just a matter of doing good. Failure to expand Medicaid coverage is costing North Carolina money, and probably lives. The new legislature should act on this fast, as soon as it’s sworn in.
This should be a no-brainer.”
Meanwhile the Greensboro News & Record had this to say about the state’s failure to adequately prepare for storms like Hurricane Matthew:
“What if, instead of rescuing people trapped in cars on flooded roads, emergency workers closed roads before the waters rose? Planners should be prepared to do that the next time a catastrophic event like Hurricane Matthew hits North Carolina.…
The experience from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 served as an apt warning. That storm dumped enough rain over eastern North Carolina to produce what hydrologists called a 500-year flood event. Fifty-one people died.
Just 17 years later, Hurricane Matthew caused flooding near Fayetteville and Smithfield that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fixed at once-in-1,000 years frequency.
Climate forecasters predict more frequent and severe storms in our future. Long-range planning, and even decisions about rebuilding after Matthew, must take such forecasts into account….
The people who lost loved ones, homes, possessions, jobs, livestock — everything — need all the help that private insurance, charities and state and federal governments can provide. It will be costly to repair and rebuild public infrastructure. Areas that were already struggling in an uncertain economy will require years to recover.
It won’t be 500 years before this happens again. When it does, we hope fewer people and structures will be in harm’s way.”
Both ideas clearly ought to be “no-brainers.” Unfortunately, when it comes to planning and thinking beyond the next tax cut, “no brains” seems to be something North Carolina political leaders have plenty of.