Commentary

Trump’s healthcare sabotage in action: New rate hikes from Blue Cross

From the good folks at the NC Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project:

Blue Cross Confirms Trump’s Sabotage Will Cause Higher Premiums for North Carolinians in 2018
Ending subsidy payments to insurers raises company’s premium increase from “near zero” to 14.1 percent

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced today that it would raise its premiums by an average of 14.1 percent for individual market plans in 2018. The company stated that their average premium increase would have been “near zero” if it were not for the Trump administration’s recent actions to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

As we’ve previously warned, North Carolina consumers are the ones who will suffer from the Trump administration’s decision to end payments to insurance companies that compensate them for providing discounted plans under the ACA.

Blue Cross states it plainly in their press release:

…ending these federal reimbursements will drive up premium costs and make it harder for insurers to participate in the ACA marketplace in the long run. Had [Cost-Sharing Reduction] payments not been eliminated, Blue Cross NC’s final rate request for ACA customers’ average would have been near zero; however, most customers receiving premium assistance will see that assistance rise in 2018 to offset the higher increase that was needed.

“Earlier efforts to undermine enrollment—shortening the Open Enrollment period to only six weeks, cutting funding for outreach and enrollment assistance, using taxpayer dollars to create anti-ACA videos, etc.—destabilized the insurance markets in ways that some consumers may have not yet noticed,” said Brendan Riley, policy analyst for the NC Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project. “But Trump’s decision to end the cost-sharing payments is directly driving Blue Cross to increase their premiums by double digits. North Carolinians will face higher prices for their health care in 2018, and they have no one to blame but the Trump administration.”

Most North Carolinians still qualify for financial assistance and can find affordable options despite the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine enrollment and raise costs. Every consumer should shop around on www.HealthCare.gov for better plans and prices during the shortened Open Enrollment period from November 1 to December 15 this year. Free in-person enrollment assistance is available at www.NCNavigator.net and 1-855-733-3711.

Commentary

Veteran journalist: GOP plan “the worst proposal yet for our courts”

It’s a high bar to scale, but veteran Greensboro News & Record columnist Doug Clark couldn’t be more right in his assessment of yesterday’s bizarre NC GOP proposal to amend the constitution so that every judge in the state must stand for election every two years.

Here’s the conclusion to the column Clark posted yesterday:

It would be a free-for-all. The entire [supreme] court could be overturned, and with multiple candidates for every seat, winners could be declared with far less than a majority vote.

Want to turn our state’s highest court into a total joke? You couldn’t find a better way to do it.

But that would just be for starters.

The title of this bill, ‘Increase Voter Accountability of Judges,’ is offensive.

Judges aren’t supposed to be ‘accountable’ to voters.

They’re supposed to be accountable to the constitutions of the United States and the state of North Carolina, and to the laws.

They aren’t politicians who should carry out the will of the people. They aren’t supposed to make decisions based on what’s popular but according to what is right, just and lawful.

The Founding Fathers decided that judges should be given lifetime terms to insulate them from the politics, or passions, of the day.

In North Carolina, judges at the Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have eight-year terms because the authors of our constitution were wise enough to provide a long period of protection from elective politics.

Two-year terms would destroy the integrity of our courts.

Our legislature has taken enough steps already to compromise the integrity of our judicial system. This would be the most egregious violation yet.

It must not advance.”

Commentary

Editorial: Berger and Moore’s “malfeasance and mismanagement” wreaking havoc on NC

This morning’s lead editorial on WRAL.com rightfully pulls few punches in assessing the behavior of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore vis a vis North Carolina’s duly elected governor. It accurately accuses the two of engaging in the kind of behavior one would more commonly associate with a banana republic junta and dictatorship.

“Did Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and others at the North Carolina General Assembly miss the election for governor a while back? While a very select sample of voters in their gerrymandered districts elected them to run the legislature, the voters across North Carolina elected Roy Cooper to be their governor.

That may not be a result the legislative leaders preferred, but it is time for them to stop working so hard at preventing the governor from doing his job.

The latest in their secretive plot to thwart the governor’s constitutional leadership has been months-long stonewalling critical gubernatorial appointees, most significantly to the State Utilities Commission, State Board of Education and trustees for the Teacher’s and State Employees’ Retirement System . It is just another chapter in the legislature’s growing collection of case studies in bad management.”

After listing numerous acts of malfeasance by legislative leaders, including their shameless blockade of numerous Cooper appointees to various boards and commissions, the editorial concludes this way:

“The governor was right to adopt a stern tone in his letter to legislators this week seeking action. Legislators are ‘disrespectful.’ Their treatment of the appointees is ‘dilatory’ and ‘unacceptable. … This is not the way to treat these appointees who have committed themselves to public service.’

Berger’s defense was more illustrative of a banana republic’s tin-horn dictator than the leader of a legislature in the greatest democracy on the planet.

‘The governor, really, until we got this letter today, had not been pushing for these nominees to any appreciable extent that I’m aware of,’ Berger told WRAL-TV’s Travis Fain. Did Berger really say that with a straight face?…

It is past time for the secret, hyper-partisan machinations from Berger’s junta to end.

With these delays, ambushes and subterfuge, Berger, Moore and those who follow their dictates have produced a perfect storm of incompetence, disrespect and petty spite.

And closer to home, what justification do members of the Wake County legislative delegation – Senators John Alexander and Chad Barefoot along with Representatives Chris Malone, Nelson Dollar and Linda Williams – have for their continued votes to prevent the governor from doing his job?

Listen to the voters. Let the governor do his job.

North Carolinians deserve better.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Graph documents amazing scale of U.S. Senate’s proposed giveaway to the rich

New from the experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center:

Upcoming Senate budget resolution vote paves way for windfall for wealthiest, destabilization of NC budget

This week, the U.S. Senate will vote on a budget resolution that will allow them to fast track tax changes that are likely to primarily benefit the wealthiest taxpayers and profitable corporations.

The tax plan framework released by President Trump and leaders in Congress will not provide an equal tax cut to all taxpayers in North Carolina. Recent analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that 57.6 percent of the tax cut would go to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers in North Carolina. These taxpayers would receive an average annual tax cut of $50,440 a year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual income of the median household in North Carolina as of 2016.

In contrast, both the middle income group and the poorest in our state would receive a smaller share of the tax cut compared to the wealthiest. The poorest in our state, those with an average annual income of about $13,000, would only receive 1.7 percent of the tax cut, which would be equivalent to $80. Meanwhile, the middle income group, with an average income of $45,000, would receive 12.2 percent of the tax cut, which would be equivalent to $550.

Due to the loss of revenue from these lopsided tax cuts, the Senate is likely to follow the House’s budget resolution, which proposes $5 trillion over 10 years in cuts to health care, food assistance and other public services. State policymakers will have to decide whether or how to deliver these services with limited options given the additional tax cuts already scheduled to take effect at the state level on Jan. 1, 2019.

Commentary, News

Cooper calls on Berger and Moore to stop stonewalling his nominees

Governor Cooper called on legislative leaders today to end their silent blockade of numerous duly nominated individuals who have been put forth to serve on a number of boards and commissions — including the state Utilities Commission, Board of Education and Teachers’ and State Employees” Retirement System Board of Trustees.

As the Governor notes in his letter:

“The fact that the General Assembly has acted on its own appointments while failing to act on the Governor’s is disrespectful to the people of North Carolina and inexcusable….My nominations to these boards were timely and the individuals nominated have the experience, expertise, and judgment to serve with distinction.”

After pointing out that the General Assembly has been in session multiple times since receiving the nominations, Cooper notes that the legislature’s refusal to act is “an obvious effort…to undermine my administration’s ability to ensure faithful execution of the laws” and simply not the way to treat the people nominated or the agencies in question.

You can read the entire letter by clicking here.