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Sen. Richard Burr has an idea: maybe it’s time to reform our health insurance system. We could set up state-based marketplaces, give tax credits to purchase private insurance, and create some new protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But first we need to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it sets up state-based marketplaces, gives tax credits to purchase private insurance, and creates some new protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The fact that Sen. Burr’s proposal is a watered down version of Obamacare is not its most entertaining feature. Partisan opponents of the Affordable Care Act have spent several years introducing alternatives to health reform that are just less workable variations of the law the nation has spent the past three years implementing.

What is most entertaining about Sen. Burr’s new proposal is what it says about prevention. Although the Affordable Care Act is one of the largest, most comprehensive investments ever made in prevention, it was not enough for Sen. Burr. In debates and news interviews he constantly harped on the lack of investment in prevention as the primary driver of his opposition to the ACA. In fact, he introduced an ACA alternative in 2009 called the Patients’ Choice Act. Title I of that act is “Investing in Prevention”. Prevention, after all, is the key.

What, then, does this new proposal, called “The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act,” have to say about prevention? Nothing, nothing at all. In the detailed summary of the bill there is no mention of prevention. So, Sen. Burr is now proposing that we throw away a unprecedented, large-scale prevention effort currently underway and replace it with nothing.

It’s easy enough to laugh off these public relations stunts. Even Sen. Burr has admitted that repeal is unlikely. It’s even less likely now that millions of people are enrolled in ACA plans and are receiving tax credits. But it’s sad that this is what passes for legislating nowadays. There are things that need fixing in health reform. Legislators should get to work and stop trying to strip away protections for American consumers.

 

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Earlier this week, at the behest of local providers and other residents, the Durham City Council passed a resolution urging Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to stop blocking Medicaid expansion. You can see coverage of the vote here.

And below is the text of the resolution:

Resolution Expanding Medicaid

WHEREAS, Durham prides itself on being the City of Medicine; and

WHEREAS, there are an estimated 18 percent of Durham County residents who are uninsured; and

WHEREAS, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides federal funding for states to expand Medicaid to all citizens earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level; and

WHEREAS, this Medicaid expansion would extend insurance coverage to more than 500,000 North Carolinians and save the state approximately $65 million over ten years; and

WHEREAS, the Durham City Council thinks all residents should have access to quality, affordable health coverage;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

1) The City Council urges the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

2) This resolution shall be effective on and after its passage, and shall be shared with the members of Durham’s General Assembly delegation.

The pressure to expand Medicaid is not easing. We will see if the legislature starts listening.