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childrenAs enrollment begins again, on Saturday, for Affordable Care Act health insurance, it is crucial to note that an important population—children—are still often uninsured. More than five million children in the United States lack any form of health insurance.

In North Carolina, this is particularly a problem within the Hispanic population. The state ranks among the top ten states with the highest number of uninsured Hispanic children, according to a joint report put out by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and by the National Council of La Raza. The report found that 12.5% of Hispanic children in North Carolina are uninsured, which is higher than the national average of uninsured Hispanic children. Nationwide, Hispanic children tend to be twice as likely to be uninsured than their white non-Hispanic counterparts.

Contrary to popular belief, immigration status is not the main reason that these children don’t have health care coverage. The majority of Hispanic children in North Carolina are U.S. citizens and are eligible for a program such as ACA, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program which would provide them with health insurance at an affordable cost to their families.

The real barrier to enrollment in health insurance for Hispanic children, according to the report, can often be their parents’ limited English proficiency. A study found that more than one in eight Hispanic children, between the ages of 5 and 17, live in a household where English is spoken “less than well.” A parent with limited English proficiency may not be able to make it through a health care application in English which then results in an eligible child not getting health insurance.

Along with making Spanish language applications available for all health care programs in North Carolina, there needs to be an emphasis placed on educating Hispanic families about health care options for their children and assisting them with the enrollment process. The health care insurance options are available, we just need to do our part in getting these kids signed up.

Commentary

Medicaid expansionICYMI, the Washington Post ran a powerful column over the weekend by man from Durham by the name of David Tedrow. In it, he explains how: a) the Affordable Care Act literally saved his life and b) the current threats of repeal by congressional Republicans leave him living in fear for his own survival.

As Tedrow puts it:

“The Obamacare subsidies saved my life. Now, I’m scared the Supreme Court is going to gut them.”

But, of course, Tedrow’s story is just one of thousands. And sadly, there are thousands more who will never get to tell their stories because North Carolina Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.

In other words, the hard and plain truth at this point is this: The Affordable Care Act is saving lives each and every day of people who would have died for lack of health insurance, but thousands more could be saved if conservative lawmakers and Governor McCrory would halt their shameful blockade — not next year or somewhere down the road, but immediately. As Chris Fitzsimon noted yesterday in a story about McCrory’s current notion to call a special session on corporate business subsidies:

“Here’s a better idea. Listen to Rev. William Barber and call a special session to expand Medicaid instead. That will create thousands of jobs after all and even House Speaker and Senator-elect Thom Tillis now thinks it’s worth considering.”
Commentary

The election may be over but the misleading claims are still coming from the politicians. Senator-elect Thom Tillis apparently couldn’t help himself in an interview recently, parroting a false talking point about the Affordable Care Act.  And the Washington Post called him out on it.

Thom Tillis is a newly-minted senator from North Carolina, having narrowly defeated the incumbent, Sen. Kay Hagan (D). But in one of his first interviews since the campaign ended, he hauled out a stale talking point that has long been debunked.

This kind of start doesn’t bode well for his time in office in Washington.

Commentary

As we report below the US Supreme Court has decided to hear another legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

You can read the details of the lawsuit in our earlier post, but some context is important. This new fight focuses on subsidies extended to individuals and families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level who purchase private insurance. For these families subsidies are available to make insurance plans more affordable. In North Carolina about 91 percent of people purchasing Affordable Care Act plans received subsidies. Of those, the average cost of insurance is $81 per month.

News coverage of the Supreme Court’s move, coming just before open enrollment is set to start, is sure to cause confusion. In the short term it is critical to remember that the subsidies are still in place and everyone should proceed to shop for insurance without worrying about the political winds.

In the long term it is difficult to know what this case will mean for the law. The challenge is absurd, but that doesn’t give us any hint at how the Supreme Court Justices will vote. Read More

Commentary

The conservatives in Congress are already queuing up to offer proposals that would gut amend Obamacare. For instance, leaders McConnell and Boehner are already proposing to raise the threshold number of hours that employees must work per week from 30 to 40 in order to trigger the mandate that their employer provide coverage.

As Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains on the blog Off the Charts, this will be a destructive idea that will actually lead to less full-time employment:

ACA work thresholdCritics of health reform claim that employers are shifting some employees to part-time work to avoid offering them health insurance.  But the data provide scant evidence of such a shift.

Moreover, raising the threshold for mandating coverage from 30 to 40 hours would make a shift toward part-time employment much more likely — not less so.

Only about 7 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours (that is, at or modestly above health reform’s 30-hour threshold), but 44 percent of employees work 40 hours a week and thus would be vulnerable to cuts in their hours if the threshold rose to 40 hours.  Under the Boehner-McConnell proposal, employers could easily cut back large numbers of employees from 40 to 39 hours so they wouldn’t have to offer them health coverage.

The bottom line according to Van de Water:

There’s little evidence to date that health reform has caused a shift to part-time work.  There’s every reason to expect the impact to be small as a share of total employment, as we have explained.  And raising the cutoff for the employer mandate from 30 to 40 hours a week would be a step in the wrong direction.