Commentary

Three workers were killed and one was gravely injured after falling from a scaffold which collapsed yesterday at the Charter Building in downtown Raleigh. A Department of Transportation worker was also killed yesterday in Wayne County. Construction and transportation are some of the most hazardous jobs in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Labor. Agriculture and manufacturing also lead the list of dangerous industries.

The NC Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NC OSHA) had a five year goal to reduce the construction fatality rate by 5% by the end of Fiscal Year 2013, which they achieved. Unfortunately, since the end of that program, it appears that construction deaths have been on the rise again.

More than 20 years ago, North Carolina was reeling from the deaths of 25 workers at the Imperial Foods chicken processing plant in Hamlet, NC. We put into place important reforms to encourage workers to make health and safety complaints and to protect them when they do. We’ve made a lot of strides as a state to improve worker safety, but when we observe Worker Memorial Day at the end of April we will remember that safe workplaces are still not the reality for all North Carolina workers.

NC Budget and Tax Center

After several states including North Carolina challenged the extension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans a preliminary injunction was issued holding up implementation of these immigration directives with the potential to reach 5 million immigrants without documents nationwide. While the issue is considered in the courts, the delay has real human, fiscal and economic costs.

As the Center for American Progress notes in their analysis:

The Council of Economic Advisers, or CEA, estimates that the November executive action providing deferred action to low-priority individuals will increase the national gross domestic product, or GDP, by nearly $60 billion over the next decade. In the aggregate, CEA estimates that the immigration directives will increase the GDP by $210 billion. As CAP demonstrated in a recent report, payroll tax revenues will increase $22.6 billion in five years and the solvency of the Social Security system will increase by $41 billion over 10 years as workers earn higher wages…State and local economies also stand to benefit immensely from the executive action.

Indeed, there are clear benefits to state and local economies to ensuring that these low-level undocumented immigrants can work and care for their families free from fear of deportation. As we have written about in the past, North Carolina is poised to benefit economically from these policies both through increased labor force participation and tax revenue. Not only are there estimated to be increases in state tax revenue but their participation in local economies as consumers is also important. That is in part why thirty-three mayors have filed an amici brief to urge the courts to lift the injunction: leaders of cities know that immigrants make an important contribution to their vibrancy. Read More

Commentary

The beneficial impacts of Obamacare continue add up, but unfortunately, North Carolina isn’t getting its fair share. That’s that’s one of the takeaways from a new report distributed yesterday on the fifth anniversary of the law. As health policy expert Tara Culp Ressler of Think Progress reports:

“According to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), hospitals saved at least $7.4 billion last year, thanks in large part to reforms under Obamacare. The savings reflect a reduction in the so-called “uncompensated care” that hospitals provide to uninsured Americans, and are even greater than HHS officials predicted they would be at the beginning of this year.

Since people without insurance typically don’t have any means to cover their medical bills, the cost of their treatment ends up falling on the hospital itself. Therefore, as more people gain coverage, it become less expensive for hospitals to care for their patients. More than 16 million previously uninsured Americans have gotten covered under Obamacare, contributing to the biggest drop in the national uninsurance rate over the past four decades.”

If states like North Carolina had gotten on board with closing the Medicaid gap, things would be even better:

“The savings have been most pronounced in the states that agreed to accept Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, which seeks to extend public insurance to additional low-income people. Nearly 70 percent of the savings documented in the HHS report — a total of $5 billion — occurred in the 29 states that have expanded Medicaid. And, if every state had agreed to add more people to their Medicaid rolls, their hospitals could have saved an extra $1.4 billion.”

In other words, here’s more confirmation that,  in addition to helping hundreds of thousands of working people in need, Medicaid expansion would do wonders for some of the most important businesses in North Carolina (especially in rural North Carolina) hospitals. It’s hard to imagine that state leaders can resist taking this obvious and long overdue step much longer.

Commentary

Tony Tata 2In case you missed it, this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully tells the state’s $136,000 per year Transportation Secretary, Tony Tata, to start focusing on his job and ditch the Obama bashing on Fox News with Sean Hannity.

Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Why Hannity is turning to Tata for wisdom on the Middle East is baffling. Tata has no special insight into the region. Beyond that, the public learned all it needed to know about Tata’s judgment of military leadership when he publicly declared that Sarah Palin would be a better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama.

Beyond why Hannity would seek Tata’s opinion is the question of why Tata would choose to give it. For a former general, this seems a basic strategic mistake. More than a quarter of North Carolina’s transportation funding comes from the federal government. A state transportation secretary who makes it a practice to go on TV and blast the president for, among other things, endangering the nation, probably is not improving his state’s chances of receiving discretionary federal funding.

Adie Tomer, an associate fellow at Brookings Institute who studies infrastructure funding, said most federal transportation funding is automatic and beyond politics. But there are grants worth many millions of dollars for which states compete. A good relationship with the current administration can help a state gain a winning edge. North Carolina enjoys an edge with former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx serving as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, but that edge may be dulled by Tata’s abrasiveness.

‘It’s a political town,’ Tomer said of Washington, even in agencies that are not directly political. He added that Tata’s criticism of the administration seems contrary to North Carolina’s requests for funding. ‘I just don’t see what there is to gain from it, especially because it’s not his current job,’ Tomer said. ‘Is that looking out for the best interests of North Carolina? It doesn’t sound like it.’

Apparently Tata’s sees his livelihood as being both a secretary of transportation and a retired general. He’s North Carolina’s own Secretary General.”

 

Commentary

Health careHard numbers and real life stories documented the impact of the Affordable Care Act today at an event in Durham commemorating the law’s fifth anniversary. “The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Women” was a roundtable discussion that featured knowledgeable women from throughout Triangle region.

Women experts and advocates from Duke Regional Hospital, Enroll America North Carolina, the Durham County Commission, and Wake and Franklin Health Services were among those attending the event sponsored by the office of Congressman G.K. Butterfield and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the Community Health Coalition in Durham. Congressman Butterfield joined the discussion via telephone and issued a call to action to continue the effort to reduce the number of uninsured in North Carolina. According to Butterfield, “Like the Civil Rights Act, the ACA is critical to ending discrimination, especially for women.”

Millions of women, of course, benefited directly from the ACA’s bar on being denied insurance because of “preexisting conditions” as well as the provision of subsidies to make health care more affordable. Women are more likely to experience social conditions such as poverty that act as barriers to accessing and utilizing health care.

Region Four of administrator, Dr. Pamela Roshell and senior advisor Stephanie Owens from HHS also participated in the panel and shared that, despite the numerous misconceptions about and attacks on the ACA, data show that 14.1 adults and 2.3 million children have gained health insurance and can now access primary and wellness care as a result of its implementation. In North Carolina, 560,000 residents are now insured as a result of the ACA – 70,000 of these individuals in the Raleigh-Durham area. Dr. Roshell congratulated our state on its enrollment and how the numbers are sending the message the ACA is needed and is working.

The roundtable discussion proceeded Read More