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Fifty years ago today President Lyndon B. Johnson created two of our most important safety net programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare gave many seniors the health care access and financial security they lacked, and Medicaid gave many children a stable start in life. To help celebrate the occasion we decided to share several historical and policy-minded blog posts about these critical programs from some of our favorite national partners.

Community Catalyst says that we should celebrate the achievements of Medicare and Medicaid but notes that now is no time to rest:

At the time of enactment, roughly half of all older adults in the United States had no health insurance. Today, Medicare and Medicaid cover nearly 1 out of every 3 Americans – more than 100 million people. But there are still millions more without coverage of any kind, or with coverage, but inadequate access to care and services they vitally need.

While a pause for celebration is in order today, complacency is not.

The United States continues to spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other western democracy, with far less “bang for our buck,” in terms of health status and outcomes to show for it. Significant health disparities and unequal access to quality care continue to be hallmarks of our health system. These issues pose a threat to the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as new programs established under the Affordable Care Act.

The Georgetown Center for Children and Families is celebrating because Medicaid has made a critical difference in the lives of so many kids (They even have a bonus video!):

With 50 years of experience serving growing numbers of America’s children, a new body of research is able to take a look at the long-term effects of childhood Medicaid coverage. Medicaid expansions in the 1980s and 1990s provided a natural experiment for researchers to evaluate how Medicaid eligibility affects children later in life. This longitudinal research tells us that children eligible for Medicaid grow up to be healthier, more academically successful, and financially secure adults than their non-Medicaid-eligible peers. We released a report that summarizes these findings earlier this week.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a post with 10 facts about Medicaid and Medicare. You should read them all but for our purposes number 9 is especially important:

9. Health reform’s Medicaid expansion is saving states money. The federal government will pay the entire cost of health care for newly eligible beneficiaries through 2016, and many states that have expanded Medicaid have found that it has produced net savings for their budgets. States will spend just 1.6 percent more on Medicaid and CHIP with the expansion than they would have without health reform, CBO estimates. Hospitals in expansion states are treating fewer uninsured patients, and the amount of uncompensated care they are providing is declining steeply. Meanwhile, hospitals in the states that have not expanded Medicaid continue to provide large amounts of uncompensated care, and the states are missing the opportunity to leverage billions of dollars in new federal funding through the expansion.

And, to commemorate the occasion, FamiliesUSA posted its many resources on Medicaid expansion with a reminder that Medicaid protects people from every walk of life.

Medicare and Medicaid were signature health care and anti-poverty achievements that we must work everyday to protect and strengthen. In our state that means pushing to expand the benefits of health care access to 500,000 more of our neighbors to give them a fair shot at living full, productive lives. Fifty years of experience tells us that’s the right thing to do.

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A coalition of workers’ rights groups this week called on vacationing state lawmakers to pass legislation when they return to Raleigh that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave and family leave for their employees.

Here is the way Alan Freyer, with the workers’ rights project of the N.C. Justice Center put it.

“It is great that lawmakers were able to take time off in the middle of a busy legislative session. We think it’s great because we think everyone in North Carolina should be able to take time off, particularly when they’re sick,” Freyer said. “Right now, there are more than a million North Carolinians who work full time and don’t have access to paid sick days. That means they have to choose between keeping their job, earning their wages and being sick.”

Read more about why paid sick days is good for workers and businesses here.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

As state lawmakers negotiate behind closed doors on a final budget deal, North Carolinians came together on Twitter to have their say on the smart investments that will best move the state forward. North Carolinians know that if we want to build a more inclusive and prosperous state for everyone, the state budget is key to getting there. Securing that goal, however, requires state lawmakers to pursue fiscal policies that enable North Carolina to reinvest and rebuild in the foundations of a strong economy.

Better choices are available than the ones that the Senate and House leadership are pursuing. That’s why every day North Carolinians and representatives from advocacy groups participated in a Twitter Chat, using the #MyNCBudget hashtag. Participants quickly pointed out that further tax cuts—as proposed in both the House and Senate budgets—would hamper the state’s ability to realize their vision for investments that benefit children, families, and communities across the state. They urged lawmakers to reinvest in early childhood education, K-12 and higher education, healthy communities, justice programs, living-wage policies, and a lot more.

There were so many strong voices that the conversation was trending in the Raleigh market. You can check out the conversation on Twitter at #MyNCBudget. Below is a preview of the discussion. Read More

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Voting rightsBob Geary  has put together the compelling reasons for folks to head to Winston-Salem Monday for the march and rally for voting rights on the first day of the federal court trial of the voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013.

Geary reminds us that the law includes more than 50 pages of voting impediments, not just the photo ID provision that has received the most publicity, the provision that lawmakers softened recently in a panic before the trial started.

What remains of HB 589? It reduces the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10. (In the 2012 elections, 70 percent of black voters came early, compared to 52 percent of whites.) It eliminates same-day registration and voting during the early voting period. (Blacks, who are 22 percent of the voting population, were 34 percent of the same-day registrant-voters.) And if you vote in the wrong precinct—say, because you moved—none of your votes count, even for president.

One upshot is that people who come to an early-voting site and aren’t properly registered will be too late to get properly registered in time to vote on Election Day. North Carolina, in the top 12 states for voter turnout since same-day registration began in 2008, may sink back to the bottom.

Learn more about the march and the courts case at www.july13marchforvotingrights.org.

 

 

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Legislators hoping to enjoy a few days of R&R this week may find a less than warm homecoming from local educators in their districts. The Wilmington Star News writes in a Tuesday editorial:

Education cutsTeachers, it seems as if some North Carolina legislators really want you to move to another state.

The state Senate’s budget plan would eliminate retiree health-care benefits for teachers (and any other state employees) hired after Jan. 1. 2016.

It’s not hard to see why: Health-care benefits for old people can be expensive.

On the other hand, teachers — especially North Carolina teachers — endure years of pay far lower than they could get in the private sector. Part of the trade-off is that they can expect generous — well, comfortable, well, adequate — pensions and benefits to tide them through their golden years.

Not any more, if the Senate has its way. A lot of the incentive for sticking with the public school system would be knocked away.

Officials in the state employees’ association complain that the state has been adding surcharges and other fees to its health plan for years. The increase, more than $1,300 per year for a typical state employee, active or retired — more than wipes out any pay increase that teachers and others have received in many years.

Teachers aren’t eligible for full health benefits as retirees until they’ve served for 20 years.

This comes on top of a Senate proposal to eliminate 8,500 teachers’ assistant positions across the state. The cuts supposedly would pay for around 2,000 new teacher positions to reduce class size.

In fact, eliminating those positions — more than one-third of the teachers’ assistants in the state — would cause problems in the classroom.
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