Commentary

Trump’s budget guts Medicaid; would devastate services to children and others in need

When the U.S. House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) earlier this month, GOP lawmakers made it painfully clear that they intended to cut and dismantle Medicaid as we know it. Cuts to Medicaid as proposed by the AHCA would shift more than $6 billion dollars onto North Carolina state government as the proposal dismantles Medicaid’s current funding structure and devolves it to a “per capita” cap or block grant. Such massive cuts would put the lives of two million North Carolinians at risk, most of whom are children. Nationally, the AHCA would cut federal funding by 25 percent over 10 years and end coverage to 14 million people across the U.S.

Now, if that isn’t bad enough, Trump’s newly released budget proposes to dramatically expand those damaging cuts. Indeed, Trump’s budget would cut Medicaid by an additional $610 billion. Together, Trump’s budget and the AHCA would cut Medicaid in half (or by $1.4 trillion). Elizabeth G. Taylor of the National Health Law Program put it this way:

“In times of great economic inequalities, the president’s budget is wildly out-of-touch, cynical and cold-hearted. Medicaid, regardless of political rhetoric, is a popular and effective health care program for low-income individuals and families and provides quality care to more than 30 million children. The program is integral to health care providers, professionals and hospitals who provide care to Medicaid beneficiaries. These cuts, if enacted, would harm tens of millions of people, and to what end?  Shrinking the federal government is not a sufficient justification when millions will suffer.”

Needless to say, such massive cuts will have devastating impacts on North Carolina’s Medicaid program. Drops in federal funding for Medicaid will force North Carolina to make difficult/impossible decisions. To maintain coverage for the state’s most vulnerable (children, people with disabilities, and older adults) North Carolina will have to raise taxes or make draconian cuts — to provider payments, benefits,  enrollment or all of the above.

To make matters even worse, Trump’s budget also goes after a program that has long enjoyed bipartisan support, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as it cuts approximately $6 billion from that program. On top of that, it only assumes that CHIP exists at all through 2019. Together, the proposed cuts to Medicaid and CHIP threaten the well-being and healthy development of North Carolina’s children. More than one million children rely on Medicaid and CHIP. These programs help North Carolina’s most vulnerable children – these are children in foster care, living in poverty, and children with disabilities.

Trump’s budget claims to put taxpayers first, but, this is a disastrously shortsighted claim. The truth, of course, is that children with Medicaid coverage have higher education attainment, get better jobs and are much more likely to grow up to be successful tax-paying adults. Tragically, this obvious and simple connection appears to be too much for the President and his allies in Congress to grasp.

Commentary, News

Renee Ellmers nabs gig in Trump administration

Renee Ellmers has been named to a mid-level post in the Trump administration. The former North Carolina congresswoman, who initially won election as a conservative political outsider in 2010 and then saw herself branded as a traitor to the conservative cause by groups like the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity — a switch that helped lead to her defeat in a 2016 Republican primary with George Holding (this despite her endorsement of Donald Trump) — has been named the Regional Director for Region 4 of the Department of Health and Human Services in Atlanta.

This is from an email sent by the acting director, Natalie Brevard Perry:

Dear valued stakeholders:

I am pleased to formally welcome Renee Ellmers as the new Regional Director for HHS Region 4, effective Monday!  After orientation at HHS Headquarters, her first day in Atlanta will be Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Ms. Ellmers comes to us from the great state of North Carolina with a strong background in public service. For the past six years, she served as the U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. In Congress, she served on the Health Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee.  Ms. Ellmers shared “I ran for office in 2010 because of the changes that were happening in healthcare policy; I wanted to be a voice for healthcare providers. After the 2016 election, I saw an opportunity to join the Department of Health and Human Services to serve the American people by helping the Administration provide patient-centered, quality healthcare.”

Ms. Ellmers is a Registered Nurse. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Oakland University. She currently lives in Dunn, North Carolina with her husband of 23 years, Brent, who is a General Surgeon, and her son Ben, a student at North Carolina University.

Welcome, Ms. Ellmers!

It will be interesting to see what the folks at AFP have to say about this appointment of someone whose defeat the group described as “a victory for economic freedom and a testament to the grassroots movement.” Although the announcement doesn’t make it clear, one presumes Ellmers will not be attempting to commute to such an important post from Dunn and will be moving to Atlanta.

Commentary, News

Activists to rally for healthcare at the General Assembly this evening

Despite the wet weather, organizers are still expecting a large gathering this evening at the General Assembly as the Forward Together movement led by Rev. William Barber rallies for healthcare access for all North Carolinians. This is from an announcement distributed by the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project:

TONIGHT: Rally for Health Care at the General Assembly in Raleigh at 6:00 p.m.

Join us tonight for a rally to save our health care outside the North Carolina General Assembly at 6:00 p.m.!

Earlier this month, the United States House of Representatives narrowly passed a disastrous health care bill to take away coverage from 24 million Americans and eviscerate the Medicaid program. On top of that, nine of North Carolina’s congressman voted for it. The fate of our nation’s health care now rests in the hands of the Senate.

On top of that, we have half a million North Carolinians that have been shut out of health coverage options because of the North Carolina General Assembly’s failure to expand access to Medicaid coverage.

These lawmakers need to hear from us. Now is the time to make your voice heard! Join us and our allies at the North Carolina NAACP to rally for our nation’s health care.

Click here to join us today outside the General Assembly in Raleigh to tell lawmakers to protect our health care!

And here is a preview video produced by the organizers:

Commentary

Simple solutions department: How lawmakers ought to respond to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling

The lead editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record offers a simple and logical solution for state lawmakers as they ponder yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on redistricting: end partisan gerrymandering now.

As the N&R editorial concludes:

“While justices argue among themselves, the rest of us can hope Monday’s ruling will lead to fairer elections. Politically, North Carolina is a closely divided state. Yet, not one of the 13 U.S. House races last year was competitive. The districts are stacked — 10 favoring Republicans and three heavily tilted for Democrats. The court’s majority found the legislature used race as the primary factor in creating two of those districts. It also recognized the link between race and partisan politics.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, a plaintiff in the case coming up, believes the court fashioned a legal bridge. ‘Partisan gerrymandering is just as wrong as racial gerrymandering,’ he said Monday. His group supports nonpartisan redistricting. It’s past time to give that a try.

Amen. To learn more about the fight Phillips and his friends are waging, check out http://endgerrymanderingnow.org/.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

The Asheville Citizen-Times had a fine editorial over the weekend entitled “Dear NCGA: Step away from the ballot box and move on.” As the editorial rightfully explains:

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the issue to rest, more or less, the North Carolina General Assembly should stop trying to undermine the integrity of the electoral system by seeking to disenfranchise voters.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. But we can still ask.

Last week the justices refused to consider an appellate decision striking down key portions of North Carolina’s voter ID law. While Chief Justice John Roberts stressed that the court was not ruling on the merits of the case, the effect was to keep the law off the books.

Leaders of the General Assembly took Roberts’ words as a license to stay their course. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said that ‘all North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote.’

They in fact are the ones attacking the integrity of elections, as the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear when it reversed a trial court decision upholding the law. The restrictions the state enacted ‘target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,’ the judges wrote. The law, they said, was adopted with ‘discriminatory intent.’

In addition to barring the state from requiring voter ID at the polls, the decision restored a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensured that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would remain in effect.

The legislators evidently assume that African-Americans are likely to favor Democrats at the polls, a not unreasonable assumption considering how many Republicans in the South have treated African-Americans ever since the infamous Southern strategy of the Nixon years….

Opponents of the law greeted the latest development with approval. The ‘announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder,’ Gov. Roy Cooper said in a release, adding that he ‘will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said it’s time for Republicans to stop proposing new restrictions. ‘We urge the General Assembly to finally accept that racially discriminatory laws have no place in our democracy, and certainly not when it comes to the sacred right to vote,’ Barber said in a release.

It would be nice if legislative leaders would pay attention. First, the General Assembly has lots of other things to do. Second, efforts to suppress voting undermine public trust in elections and in government.

Sadly, those leaders seem determined to put partisan considerations ahead of the integrity of the electoral system.”