Author

Uncategorized

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer became a conservative hero when she was able to get her state to pass one of the harshest immigration laws in the nation. On Monday she gave her State of the State address and spoke in-depth about the Medicaid expansion.

Here is what she said in part:

“By agreeing to expand our Medicaid program just slightly beyond what Arizona voters have twice mandated, we will: Protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by their growing costs in caring for the uninsured; Take advantage of the enormous economic benefits – inject 2 Billion dollars into our economy – save and create thousands of jobs; and, Provide health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans. Saying ‘no’ to this plan would not save these federal dollars from being spent or direct them to deficit reduction. No, Arizona’s tax dollars would simply be passed to another state – generating jobs and providing health care for citizens in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or any other expansion state… With this move, we will secure a federal revenue stream to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in our doctor’s offices and emergency rooms… Weigh the evidence and do the math. With the realities facing us, taking advantage of this federal assistance is the strategic way to reduce Medicaid pressure on the State budget. We can prevent health care expenses from eroding core services such as education and public safety, and improve Arizona’s ability to compete in the years ahead. I’m committed to doing this, and I want you on my side. Let’s work together in an atmosphere of respect and do what is BEST for Arizona.”

North Carolina’s expansion would be more dramatic than in Arizona, which means it will cover more people, and, instead of bringing in $2 billion we stand to gain more like $15 billion in federal funds. If Medicaid expansion makes sense in Arizona, it makes even more sense in North Carolina.

Uncategorized

North Carolina announced recently that it would pursue a state partnership health benefits exchange. Exchanges, for the uninitiated, are online marketplaces where people can easily compare insurance plans and get premium subsidies to purchase coverage. The exchange will also have in-person assistance for the less computer savvy and maintain a toll free hotline.

Under a state partnership North Carolina will retain some say over how the exchange is run in our state. To help get the exchange started the federal government today granted the state $74 million.

This money will help boost our consumer assistance program and it will help us establish an information technology infrastructure to support the state partnership exchange. This money also means more jobs will be created as we seek to build a better health care system.

Uncategorized

At this morning’s presser Sen. Phil Berger said he did not see his chamber expanding Medicaid or supporting a health benefits exchange in any form.

I’ll address Medicaid first. The Budget and Tax Center has written a brief on why the Medicaid expansion is critical. In that paper they explain that Medicaid would provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians and bring a flood of federal money in to the state, which would boost job creation and support health care providers. It would help hospitals that see a large percentage of uninsured patients, especially in rural areas of our state.

We would all pay for not implementing the Medicaid expansion. The American Academy of Actuaries says that private insurance premiums will increase faster in states that do not expand Medicaid. That is because there will be more cost shifting in those states with higher uninsured populations. It is also because more folks with more health needs will get subsidies to purchase private insurance if we do not expand Medicaid. That will mean the insurance pool will be filled with people who are not as healthy, which will result in higher premiums.

More businesses with more than 50 employees will pay penalties for not providing health insurance if we do not expand Medicaid. Under health reform, if you own a business with more than 50 employees and you do not offer affordable insurance and at least one of your employees gets federal subsidies to purchase private insurance, then you will be fined. If, however, we expand Medicaid then fewer employees will receive a subsidy, which means fewer businesses will get penalized. There is no fee for a business when employees get Medicaid.

On the exchange it was not surprising to hear Berger say that his caucus is not excited about a state-based exchange. But there is no reason at all to reject a hybrid exchange, or, as it is officially called, a state partnership exchange. Having a partnership exchange means that the federal government pays us to conduct our own consumer assistance program and review insurance plans sold in the exchange. North Carolina is a pioneer in the area of consumer assistance for insurance problems. To turn that function over to the federal government just feels unpatriotic. Maybe I’m just too prideful about North Carolina.

It is also good for North Carolina to review insurance plans sold in our exchange. If insurance companies or consumers have questions about plan approval we know the North Carolina insurance commissioner and we know how to contact him. If I had similar concerns in a federal exchange I would have no clue who to call.

Rejecting a partnership exchange is just saying that we want no say over how things operate in North Carolina. I can understand Berger not wanting to take full ownership of the exchange but rejecting a partnership makes no sense at all.

Every day that North Carolina spends running away from health reform is a day that we get further from where we will need to be one day. Putting off decisions now will only increase our pain in the future. States that embrace reform will get all of the benefits while we get left behind.

Uncategorized

At an event co-sponsored by the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, the NC Justice Center, and Families USA, Dr. Don Berwick and Ron Pollack will talk about health system reform under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Berwick, most recently, ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees nearly a third of health spending in the United States. Partisan gridlock in Washington prevented Berwick from getting confirmed. Berwick is one of the founders and leading figures of the patient safety and health care quality movements. As a co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Berwick worked with thousands of hospitals and health systems across the world to save hundreds of thousands of lives by focusing on quality and coordinating care.

Ron Pollack is the founding executive director of Families USA, one of the nation’s leading health care consumer organizations. Pollack was instrumental in passing the Affordable Care Act, and his organization has produced hundreds of reports over the years documenting the struggles people face when trying to navigate our broken health care system.

The event will begin at 12:15 at the Brody School of Medicine Auditorium in Greenville and is open to the public.

Uncategorized

On October 1, 2013, early enrollment begins in the North Carolina Health Benefits Exchange. Our exchange will likely start as a partnership between the state and federal government.

This means that in one year people without affordable employer insurance will be able to easily shop and compare plan options online. And, for the first time in our state, no one will be charged more due to their gender or prior medical history. And subsidies will be available for many of those who are not able to afford coverage.

The health exchange in North Carolina will do much more than host a website. It will also maintain a call center and scatter people throughout the state to help consumers navigate our reformed insurance system. It will also, depending on eligibility, help people enroll in Medicaid and other public programs.

The Affordable Care Act was not an overhaul of how we provide health care in the state. Hospitals are still independently operated and most people will continue getting insurance through an employer or a private company. But the changes coming in one year do represent a tremendous step toward protecting consumer rights and providing new access to care.