Health system leader in GOP-dominated eastern NC: Expand Medicaid in 2020

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In case you missed it on New Year’s Day, Michael Waldrum, the head of eastern North Carolina’s Vidant Health system, authored the latest powerful op-ed from a health care leader calling for the expansion of Medicaid.

In “Work together to meet state’s critical 2020 health needs,” Waldrum argued persuasively that eastern North Carolina’s make the need for expansion acute:

Delivering health care in the rural parts of North Carolina is a challenge for many reasons; a high burden of disease, an underserved population, and a growing number of patients relying on Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these challenges, Vidant Health is delivering quality care in the East, but we need the right policies to ensure those in our communities are supported and have access to the professionals they rely on for care.

In 2019, the state watched as labor and delivery services closed in neighboring rural communities. This is tragic. No mother should have to worry about how she is going to get care or where she will deliver her baby.  We see hospitals in rural parts of the country continuing to close their doors and North Carolina is not immune.  This continues to be a crisis and we must do better.

For eastern North Carolina, expanding Medicaid, designing a reasonable solution to resolve State Health Plan liabilities and funding a new Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University must be a priority for the state.

Expanding Medicaid will improve access to care, something we desperately need not only in the East, but also throughout the state. North Carolinians are subsidizing care in 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid while too many North Carolinians struggle.

After going on to explain the need for better funding for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Waldrum concludes this way:

It is time to look deep inside of ourselves and put aside partisanship, personal petty attacks and uncompromising attitudes in order to do what is right for all North Carolinians. At the end of the day, it is about how we treat each other and our desire to come together to do what is right for those we all serve.

In 2020, we must commit to greater collaboration with a focus on creating a health care system for the state we can all be proud to say we built together.

It seems worth noting that Vidant serves 29 eastern North Carolina counties — counties that are, for the most part, dominated by Republican lawmakers. Let’s hope these lawmakers are listening to one of their region’s most important health care leaders. Click here to read the entire essay.

News, Trump Administration

Alliance for Justice experts explain what’s next with impeachment (Facebook live video)

Experts at the Washington-based Alliance for Justice will hold forth this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EST (and later, if you want to watch it then)  regarding what comes next with the impeachment of President Trump. Here’s the announcement:

Alliance for Justice plans to go live.

TODAY: We’re going live to answer your questions about what happens next in the impeachment process! We’ll talk with AFJ’s Legal Director, Dan Goldberg, and our Senior Fellow, William Yeomans. Post your questions now, and we’ll answer them when we go live!

Today at 3:00 PM
Live with Alliance for Justice: On Impeachment
Tune in to watch live
Click here to go to the AFJ Facebook page.
Commentary, Trump Administration

Nichol: American inequality soars under Trump

Gene Nichol

In case you missed it, be sure to check out Prof. Gene Nichol’s New Year’s Eve op-ed for Raleigh’s News & Observer (“Trump policies coddle the rich, punish the poor”). Nichol, a UNC law professor who, along with fellow researcher Heather Hunt, chronicles the grizzly details of poverty in North Carolina (see their most recent report here), highlights some startling new statistics and Trump administration policies.

“Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman’s new book, The Triumph of Injustice, reveals an astonishing, if somehow unsurprising, set of facts. In 2018, with the implementation of the Trump tax cut, for the first time in American history, the richest 400 families paid a lower total effective tax rate (combined federal, state and local) than the bottom fifty percent of all households. The great 400, last year, coughed up 23% of their earnings, while the poorest half paid 24.2%….

This intense dedication to the interests and well-being of the very, very richest is on something of a roll. In 1960, the top four hundred households paid an effective total tax rate of 56%. By 1980, it had dropped to 47%, still more than double what it is today. During the same six-decade period, the figure for the bottom half remained essentially unchanged — presenting a stout version of reverse Robin Hood. As a result, Saez and Zucman show, over the last 75 years the U.S. tax code has become radically less progressive.

And now, as French economist Thomas Piketty puts it, the U.S. enjoys a higher level of economic inequality “than any other society, at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.”
Of course, as Nichol also highlights, in an effort to pay for his giveaways to the rich, King Donald has moved to slash food assistance to the poor:

“the Trump administration has announced that a three-stage series of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. That’ll at least help [the deficit] a little. Thank God and Franklin Graham that someone is keeping an eye on the budgetary bottom line.

USA Today reports the rule changes will cut SNAP by $4.2 billion over five years — enacting stricter work requirements, capping utility allowance deductions and “reforming” the way states enroll families when they receive other forms of aid. (North Carolina had already moved on one of these fronts — unwilling to allow anyone to gain ascendancy in its war on poor people.)

The Urban Institute reported 3.7 million fewer people per month will receive benefits and 2.2 million households will have their benefits decreased.”

In short, Nichol notes, Trump has, quite literally, made transferring wealth wealth from the have nots to the haves a central premise of his presidency and, in so doing, dragged us “into the slime with him.”
Click here to read the entire essay.

Top economic lesson of 2019: Raise the minimum wage

The Economic Policy Institute recently published its “Top 13 Charts of 2019” a series of brief takes on the state of the U.S. economy and how average workers are faring. One of the charts — number six — make clear that it’s past time for North Carolina to raise its minimum wage.

While federal policymakers have neglected to increase the federal minimum wage above $7.25 per hour, many states and cities have raised their own minimum wages above the federal level. As of July 2019, 29 states and the District of Columbia have wage floors higher than the federal minimum. The lowest-paid workers in these states are clearly better off than their counterparts in the states with a minimum wage still stuck at $7.25 per hour.

But the most meaningful boost to living standards appears in the states whose minimum wage increases have outpaced inflation. If we subtract the eight states whose increases have been too infrequent and small to stay ahead of the rising cost of living, it leaves 21 states (and the District of Columbia) where the inflation-adjusted minimum wage actually rose in value between 2010 and 2018.

The wages of low-wage workers in those states rose much faster than in states without real minimum wage increases. The figure shows the gains in the 10th percentile hourly wage (i.e., the wage for the worker who earns more than only 10% of all workers) between 2010 and 2018 for each set of states, overall and by gender. Between 2010 and 2018, the 10th percentile hourly wage increased 9.9% in states with real minimum wage increases, compared with growth of only 5.7% in states without an inflation-adjusted increase in their minimum wage. The figure also shows that real minimum wage increases were particularly beneficial to women. And if we convert the overall growth rate in the two sets of states to an annual rate, we see that  the 10th percentile wage grew 0.5 percentage points faster in states with real minimum wage increases than in states without real minimum wage increases. That’s a sizable benefit considering that labor markets were already tightening (i.e., employers were increasingly competing to fill jobs) in all states during this period).

Click here to explore the other 12 charts.



Editorial: Time for NC to get voter ID right

Be sure to check out this morning’s lead editorial on — “Judge offers N.C. a chance to get voter ID right.”

As the on-the-mark essay notes, a recent federal court ruling putting a hold on the state’s latest voter ID law ought to provide an inspiration to lawmakers to — at long last — tackle the complex issue in a fair and constitutional manner.

Requiring photo identification when someone votes is about making sure our elections are fair. Just as important as making sure only qualified voters cast ballots (that hasn’t been a problem in the state while abuse of absentee ballots forced an unprecedented do-over congressional election this year) is making sure NO ONE is inappropriately denied an opportunity to vote.

When it comes to voting rights North Carolina’s legacy – including several recent issues – demands rigorous caution.

In other words, in a state with a long history of denying certain people — most notably African Americans — the right to vote, the law needs to be crafted with extreme care so as not to perpetuate that noxious tradition. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

No one should have a problem with appropriately requiring, through use of photo identification, a person who shows up to vote is the same person that met the strict test to register. Requiring that person to do any more, such as making the types of photo identification so limited as to render it difficult to impossible for significant blocks of voters, isn’t about assuring a fair vote but imposing discrimination.

All those who favor fair elections and support a reasonable requirement for photo identification at the polling place, should welcome Judge Biggs’ injunction.

They should commit to work with the court to make sure North Carolina acts to assure fair elections and not concoct a scheme to deny blocks of voters of their most basic right in a representative government.

Click here to read the entire editorial.