The NC House released its version of the budget today, and, thankfully, the House’s budget does not include the substantial cut in health care coverage for pregnant women that was part of the NC Senate’s budget. While a very good start showing that legislators in the House recognized the serious detrimental health effects for mother and baby of cutting health coverage, this issue will not be going completely away just yet. Since the NC Senate included the cut for pregnant women it in its budget this cut could come back at any time. Stay tuned.
I don’t know if I can take more of these buried anti-health gems in the NC Senate’s budget, but here’s another from my friends at the NC Alliance for Health. The Senate eliminates $1.2 million in the NC Department of Transportation budget for greenway trails, already an underfunded program. Even this $1.2 million in state money allows NC to get $4.5 million in matching funds to build more bike and pedestrian trails all over the state. Just for comparison $1.2 million is less than what it costs to build one mile of highway in NC. Greenways have a positive effect on real estate prices and home sales, in addition to being nice places to keep healthy. This is yet another budget cut that seems more ideological than anything else.
Today in the News and Observer I detail yet another one of these crazy changes hidden deep in the GOP budget recently passed by the NC Senate. This one is a doozy—it kicks off pregnant women who currently get Medicaid and tells them to go buy private insurance. A half-hearted attempt at political cover is provided by saying that somehow (it’s unworkable) the state will pay part of the private premium if these lower income women qualify. However, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was supposed to be expanded, not cut, an expansion already rejected by the NC Senate. The latest cynical attempt to attack “Obamacare” just doesn’t work and it ignores the great bipartisan legacy of our state’s efforts to attack our awful infant mortality rate problem:
Back in 1989, shortly after news that North Carolina had the highest infant mortality rate of any state in the nation, Republican Gov. Jim Martin created a task force to seek solutions to this national embarrassment after he already had been pushing for changes to address the problem. Solutions championed by Martin included expanding Medicaid to many more pregnant women in 1987.
Over the weekend, Governor Pat McCrory continued on his theme of “Medicaid is broken and costs are out of control” in a number of interviews. This reflects the talking points in this week’s NC Senate budget release that blame Medicaid for every budget woe in the state. It’s enormously disappointing that McCrory is not being challenged in these interviews with some basic facts about NC Medicaid that show far from being broken, it is actually a model program in reducing costs. In fact, why not ask him about this one easy chart? Over the last twenty years North Carolina has gone from an annual growth rate in Medicaid costs of 14% to today’s 3.5% growth rate (the lowest in the nation). North Carolina leads the nation in reducing Medicaid growth responsibly.
Steve Shore, Executive Director of the North Carolina Pediatric Society, writing in the group’s most recent newsletter:
“Listening to the press conference about the NC Senate’s version of the proposed biennial state budget from the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly on Monday, you would think that North Carolina’s Medicaid program is responsible for all the state’s woes.
Forget the Great Recession, unemployment, loss of manufacturing jobs, corporate giveaways for economic development, and so on. It’s Medicaid that is holding us back!
Medicaid is an easy target when the entire program combines $13 billion of both state and federal funding. However, let’s get real: only 25% of that $13 billion cost is from the NC General Fund. And who is on Medicaid? 960,827 children aged birth to 18; 491,619 aged, blind or disabled citizens; and 360,852 pregnant women and parents of children who are covered that qualify at or below $19,090 for a family of three or $11,170 for an individual, which is $5.38/hour based on a full-time job. So that means North Carolina covers a miniscule number of adults between 18 and 64 years of age.
Talk about a masquerade and picking on our most vulnerable populations that cannot respond! Children don’t have a vote and if not for the North Carolina Pediatric Society and the children’s advocacy community, not much voice in the political process.
We obviously have more work ahead to demonstrate that Medicaid and our medical home model promoted by Community Care of North Carolina is best for our state.”