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If there’s one story that’s been notably and inexplicably under-reported in the mainstream news media this week it’s been this one. As  our former colleague Adam Searing, to his credit, reported Monday:

In two interviews over the last few days, North Carolina’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Aldona Wos and NC’s Medicaid Director Dr. Robin Cummings address the question of Medicaid expansion in NC:  How soon, the presentation of options for policymakers and whether the state should create its own unique plan are discussed.  Both officials comment on the fact that the federal government is working with states to create state-tailored plans and seem clear that North Carolina’s Governor will be presented with options for expansion that can be taken to NC’s General Assembly.  No timeline is discussed, but NC’s legislature reconvenes in January 2015.

Click here to watch Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and Medicaid Director Robin Cummings finally confirm plans to do what advocates, providers and economists have been demanding for nearly two years: expand Medicaid.

Commentary
Obama window

Pres. Obama and a staffer hail Rose Garden maintenance team to join them at today’s press event. Photo: www.whitehouse.gov

President proposes heath care expansion financed by rich liberals, people of color and immigrants
Conservative leaders skeptical that tax plan is sufficiently targeted

WASHINGTON - In an effort to break the logjam that has kept millions of Americans in numerous states from fully participating in all aspects of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama announced today that he would offer yet another olive branch to conservative critics of his signature health plan.

Under a new initiative the President referred to as the “Keeping Our Citizens Healthy by Selling-out Wholesale If Necessary” plan or “KOCHS WIN” for short, Medicaid expansion and other costs associated with the Affordable Care Act would be underwritten as of January, 2015 via a series of new taxes to be levied directly on three of Mr. Obama’s most loyal groups of supporters: liberal billionaires, people of color and immigrants. The President announced the new plan today at a White House ceremony in which he was joined by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros and a several members of the Rose Garden maintenance team.

According to Mr. Obama, the KOCHS WIN plan was just his latest good-faith effort to do whatever it takes to find common ground with critics who have fought the Affordable Care Act and virtually every other initiative of his administration since it took office in 2009, even when the initiatives in question were originally the critics’ ideas.

“My administration has compromised so much on so many things at this point – Iraq, Guantanamo, taxes, trade, reproductive rights, immigration, gun control, just to name a few – that this one was really a no-brainer,“ said the President. Hearkening back to a theme that has arisen repeatedly over the last five and a half years, Mr. Obama declared that “there are very few principles of progressivism and good governance that we aren’t prepared to sacrifice in order to get a deal and maybe save some lives.”

New tax schemes

Under the plan, which Mr. Buffett claimed to have first suggested to the President during toasts at a White House state dinner for African leaders last month, each of the growing number of billionaires who have contributed to the President’s Organizing for Action advocacy group and its affiliated nonprofits, plus those who are registered as Democrats or who have significant holdings in the film industry, will pay a special one-time surtax of 3% of their net wealth.

“Heck, I told the President that Bill, George and I ought to probably just pay for the whole darned thing ourselves,” said Mr. Buffett. “But he said ‘no, if we’re going to have a shot at getting this through we can’t let ourselves be accused of engaging in class warfare.’ That’s when someone – I think it was Harry Reid – suggested a small tax on some other groups conservatives love to hate. ”

Those other groups, under the initial version of the KOCHS WIN plan, would be immigrants and lower-income minorities – both of which would be targeted for new federal excise taxes. Read More

Commentary

Health-Reform-SBFinding irony and contradictions in the arguments espoused by Obamacare haters is not a difficult thing to do. Heck, one of the nation’s most powerful opponents of the new law is trying to force its repeal even as he embraces its remarkably positive impact in his home state!

That said, a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research points to an especially interesting and problematic finding for opponents who continue to lambaste the law as an “assault on freedom”: the law is actually enhancing freedom. It’s doing this for millions of average Americans in a vitally important way by expanding their choices when it comes to how, when and where they work. Here’s the introduction:

“Most of the discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has focused on the extent to which it has extended health insurance coverage to the formerly uninsured. This is certainly an important aspect of the law. However by allowing people to buy insurance through the exchanges and extending Medicaid coverage to millions of people,
the ACA also largely ends workers’ dependence on their employer for insurance. This gives tens of millions of people the option to change their job, to work part-time, or take time off to be with young children or family members in need of care, or to retire early. Read More

Commentary

Thom_Tillis_official_portraitWhen I last posted about the Senate debate between Speaker Thom Tillis and Sen. Kay Hagan I had listened to the exchange on radio but I had not yet watched the video. Watching television coverage of the debate one could hardly miss that Tillis was, once again, wearing a blue lapel pin from the science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

The pin highlights an important question that the media and voters should be asking Tillis: Where does he stand on minimum coverage requirements for insurance?

The primary argument Tillis pushes against the Affordable Care Act and Sen. Hagan is that the health law set a new floor for health insurance benefits. That’s why some plans were initially cancelled. It’s why some plans cost more than before the enactment of reform. But for the Autism community setting minimum standards for insurance was one of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society are still doing critical work to ensure that insurance companies are adhering to these new mandates.

Moreover, Tillis personally advocated for a bill expanding on the minimum requirements set by the ACA by mandating insurance coverage for the diagnoses and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Assuming that Tillis was sincere in his support of new insurance requirements it’s difficult to see how he could object to the health reform law establishing similar mandates. And if he supports minimum requirements in general but opposes specific coverage mandates in the ACA then he should specify which services he would make optional for insurance companies. Would he say that insurers can go back to not covering pregnancy? What about prescription drugs?

The answers to these questions cut to the core of the Speaker’s opposition to health reform and voters need to know where he stands.

Commentary

Health-Reform-SBIn case you missed it, be sure to check out Sahil Kapur’s article today on Talking Points Memo about the fast-fading attacks on Obamacare and why a political “nightmare” may be coming to pass for the American right. One of Kapur’s key sources: none other than long-time conservative icon William Kristol, who two decades ago led the charge to defeat Bill Clinton’s proposed healthcare overhaul. Back then, Kristol’s chief fear was of what would happen was, effectively, the same thing that is happening now: the establishment of a new law that would fast become an integral part of the middle class safety net and, as such, quickly become politically unassailable.

As the TPM story notes: the massive healthcare industry is adapting, premiums are stabilizing and even Mitch McConnell wants the hundreds of thousands of newly-insured Kentuckians to keep their Obamacare.  In short, Kristol’s fear that “reform would paint Democrats as ‘the generous protector of middle-class interests’ and strike a ‘punishing blow’ to the GOP’s anti-government ideology” appears, by an increasing number of indications, to be coming true.