Commentary

BCRAP: Latest acronym for Senate health care bill says it all

A statement issued yesterday afternoon by the good people at the North Carolina Justice Health Advocacy Project put things plainly and bluntly in describing the latest dreadful U.S. Senate healthcare proposal:

Statement: New Better Care Reconciliation Act Proposal Is the Same Old BCRAP
Bill Still Guts Health Care for Low-Income Kids & Older Adults, While New Provisions Nix Critical Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

RALEIGH (July 13, 2017)— Today, U.S. Senate Republican leadership unveiled a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Unfortunately, the latest version is only cosmetically different from the previous BCRA. This BCRA would still end the Medicaid program as we know it, revive discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, send deductibles skyrocketing, result in plans offering bare-bones coverage, reduce women’s access to health care by stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid reimbursement, and make coverage in general less affordable for many North Carolinians.

In addition, a new amendment would reintroduce explicit discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions along with the sale of junk policies that offer bare-bones coverage. This amendment would segment the market, as lower-risk patients select cheap plans and older adults and people with pre-existing conditions seek out more robust and now much more expensive coverage—creating a de facto high risk pool. As this adverse selection continues, premiums would spiral out of control for more expensive patients who need comprehensive coverage, particularly for middle-class North Carolinians with pre-existing conditions who make too much to qualify for a subsidy under the new plan but would be denied coverage under a skimpy plan.

This amendment would destabilize the individual insurance market under the guise of providing consumer choice. But for aging North Carolinians and those with chronic and pre-existing conditions, the choice would be between paying sky-high premiums for coverage and making their rent or mortgage payment; between incurring major medical debt to afford their prescriptions and putting food on the table; and between drawing down on their savings to meet their deductible and saving for their children’s education.

Other changes designed to offset cuts to financial help do not go far enough. Read more

Commentary

Disappointing: Cooper signs bill that unfairly targets farmworkers

One supposes that Gov. Roy Cooper feels he has to pick his battles carefully these days given the hard realities at the General Assembly, where Republicans hold “veto proof” majorities in both the House and the Senate.  That said, the Guv’s decision today to approve farm legislation that, among other things, unfairly targets farmworkers and their efforts to organize labor unions is a major and frustrating disappointment. This is from the good people at the North Carolina AFL-CIO:

Statement by NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan on Gov. Cooper’s Plan to Sign S615

“We are deeply disappointed…”

“Working people in North Carolina deserve better from our legislators and our Governor.” 

We are deeply disappointed that Gov. Cooper plans to sign the Farm Bill (S615). This legislation singles out farm workers and undermines their freedom of association and ability to collectively negotiate for better wages and working conditions.

This attack on farm workers’ rights is most likely in retaliation for a series of lawsuits brought by farm workers and their union (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) over wage theft and mistreatment on several farms in Eastern NC — including one owned by Sen. Brent Jackson, who sponsored this bill and chaired the Senate conference committee. It is a clear conflict of interest and blatant abuse of power for legislators who are also growers to push policies that allow them to gain more and more profit on the backs of their workers.

Working people in North Carolina deserve better from our legislators and our Governor. We will be vigilant in our pursuit of justice for farm workers — including supporting FLOC’s legal challenge of this unfair law.

Even if a veto was sure to be overridden, Cooper could have made an important statement of solidarity with many of the state’s most vulnerable people by taking such an action. Let’s hope he explains his reasoning to workers and their representatives at some point in the near future.

Commentary

Campaign contributions from high-cost lenders: N&O story helps connect the dots to bill on Cooper’s desk

As was explained in Tuesday’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, one of the worst bills to emerge from the waning hours of the 2017 legislative session was a proposal from the often predatory consumer finance loan industry to allow it to pack more high interest loans with virtually worthless credit insurance.

“Though industry lobbyists claim the change is a mere ‘clarification,’ it’s clear that it would permit the sales of insurance on an entire raft of possessions (‘other personal property of the debtor, exclusive of an automobile’) on which it is not now permissible to sell it. This would, of course, be one thing if credit property insurance were actually a useful and valuable product for North Carolina consumers. The truth, as readers have probably guessed by now, however, is otherwise. You can tell this by looking at the ‘loss ratio’ that insurers experience.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ model loss ratio is 60%. This means that for every dollar the insurers take in through premium payments, they should pay out 60 cents in claims. Unfortunately, the loss ratio for credit property insurance comes nowhere close to this number. The state Department of Insurance’s 2013 Credit Property Survey found that the credit property insurance loss ratio for single interest credit property insurance in 2013 in North Carolina was just 8.81% or about one-seventh of what it ought to have been.

In other words, consumers are already being grossly overcharged for this product and expanding the scope of its sale will just make matters worse. If the bill becomes law, thousands of struggling people who already can’t afford the loans they’re taking out will be that much deeper in the hole.”

Now, thanks to reporter David Ranii of Raleigh’s News & Observer and good government watchdog Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, we have a strong inkling as to how and why such a lousy idea emerged out of nowhere with zero public discussion. This is from Ranii’s latest article, “Consumer loan industry is a big winner at the NC legislature – and a big donor”:

“The consumer finance industry, which recently succeeded in persuading the Republican-led state legislature to pass a bill that it wanted, has been a major contributor to GOP lawmakers in recent years.

An analysis of state Board of Elections data by Democracy North Carolina, a voter rights and campaign finance watchdog group, found that people associated with the consumer loan industry and two industry political action committees gave at least $530,000 to legislators and party committees over the past four years. Of that amount, 92 percent went to Republicans.

‘I would say they got a real advantage by putting in this kind of money,’ said Bob Hall, director of Democracy NC.”

Uh, yes, that would be a very obvious conclusion given that the provision in the bill on Cooper’s desk was slipped in just before the end of session by GOP powers that be without so much as a committee discussion.

The bottom line: The hints of “pay-to-play” politics associated with this bill provide yet another compelling reason for Cooper to veto it and for lawmakers to back down when the bill is returned to them.

Commentary

Former GOP supreme court justice and candidate for governor rips General Assembly

Bob Orr

In case you missed it, one of North Carolina’s best known Republican politicians has had it with his fellow GOP’ers who preside over the General Assembly. In a scathing op-ed in the Charlotte Observer, former Republican Supreme Court justice and gubernatorial candidate Bob Orr lambastes the legislature for its many acts of malfeasance during the 2017 session. While he notes that agrees with many of lawmakers’ specific decisions, the repeated abuses of process are simply unacceptable.

Here’s the conclusion to his essay:

“Now, whether they’re cooking the books on redistricting or stripping the newly elected Democratic governor of appointments and powers, this group of Republicans simply doesn’t care what the opposition or anyone else thinks. It’s power politics – and if necessary, good government be damned. And that’s where this legislative session really bothers me. There were a number of good laws passed by the 2017 General Assembly and frankly, lots in the budget that was commendable. Sure, we can disagree on spending amounts or lack of spending for specific budget items, but overall the budget was, in fact, pretty good.

That said, the punitive nature of some of the provisions and the lack of fundamental good government process tarnished the result of this year’s session. The draconian stripping of Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein’s budget with no debate or discussion is simply unacceptable. This kind of hardball politics doesn’t just “punish” a political opponent but jeopardizes the critical work of the attorney general’s office. Stripping the Court of Appeals of three of its 15 judges in order to keep the governor from making appointments to replace retiring Republican judges is short-sighted and overtly politicizes the judiciary at a time when we need to be moving to de-politicize it. And merging the Ethics Commission and the Board of Elections might be a good idea, but the way it was done with no real discussion about the merits of the proposal flaunts the concept of good government.

I know and like a number of the Republican members of the General Assembly, and some I consider long-time friends. But their failure to stand up to these kinds of actions pushed strictly for partisan advantage and to punish elected officials and constituent groups that some Republicans don’t agree with is a major disappointment. We need good government and good people willing to do what is right, not just what is politically expedient. My fellow Republicans in the General Assembly can do better.”

Commentary

Author of “Democracy in Chains” to headline July 26 luncheon

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Prof. Nancy MacLean on her provocative new book, “Democracy in Chains” 

Click here to register.

Prof. Nancy MacLean of Duke University is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.”

The author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994, MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy. Her articles and review essays have appeared in American Quarterly, The Boston Review, Feminist Studies, Gender & History, In These Times, International Labor and Working Class History, Labor, Labor History, Journal of American History, Journal of Women’s History, Law and History Review, The Nation, the OAH Magazine of History, and many edited collections.

Professor MacLean’s scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards and been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation. In 2010, she was elected a fellow of the Society of American Historians, which recognizes literary distinction in the writing of history and biography. Also an award-winning teacher and committed graduate student mentor, she offers courses on post-1945 America, social movements, and public policy history.

Don’t miss the opportunity hear from this important author at this critical time for our country.

Please note: The book will be available for purchase at the event and Prof. MacLean will remain after her talk to autograph copies.

When: Wednesday July 26, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m..

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available on advance request.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com