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Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP and Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal speak Monday at the U.S. Capitol

Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP and Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal speak Monday at the U.S. Capitol

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal completed a walk from his small Eastern North Carolina town to the nation’s capital today, calling on national leaders to help rural communities with sparse healthcare options.

The 283-mile walk – the second year the Republican mayor has done it –– was to bring attention to the pressures faced by the nation’s 283 rural hospitals, especially those in states like North Carolina that opted not to expand Medicaid coverage.

O’Neal reached the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, and was joined at a rally with other advocates and allies, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Belhaven Town Council member Julian Goff and the Rev. William Barber, head of the N.C. NAACP.

Belhaven, located in Beaufort County near the Pamlico Sound, lost its local hospital in 2014, when the hosptial’s owners opted to shut down the small healthcare facility because it couldn’t afford to stay open after North Carolina lawmakers chose to not expand Medicaid coverage in the state.

Residents now have to travel to Greenville for emergency care, a trip that can take over an hour.

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Commentary

We have written before about King v. Burwell, the case that will be heard before the US Supreme Court to determine whether or not health insurance subsidies can flow to states that refused to establish state-based marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. As John Stewart has noted, justices would have to be more literal than Amelia Bedelia to find for the plaintiffs, but we live in strange times where anything seems possible.

The next question then is if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies how many people would it impact? Now Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful interactive map to estimate an answer. KFF researchers think more than 13 million people nationally, and about 1 million people in North Carolina, would lose tax credits if the Supreme Court denies subsidies to federal marketplace states. For most of these folks insurance would immediately become unaffordable. This is especially true because prices would most likely spiral upward as younger, healthier enrollees lose coverage.

That is a stunning figure. It would be like the Supreme Court cutting the number of North Carolinians receiving Medicare in half.

The cruel truth is that Congress could easily fix this problem by adding a few words to the Affordable Care Act, but they are so obsessed with repealing the legislation that they are unlikely to repair it. The state legislature could also provide a patch by at least establishing a governance structure for a state-based marketplace, but they are also unlikely to move. After all, the federal government stands ready to pay the state to expand insurance to 500,000 more state residents and that hasn’t gained any legislative traction.

So, we wait, while medical care for 1 million North Carolinians hangs in the balance.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Today the United States Senate is scheduled to debate and possibly vote on a bill titled the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, which would authorize states to require businesses to collect state and local taxes for products sold via the internet. Currently, states can only require retailers to collect sales taxes if a respective business has a physical presence in a state. And while the tax is still legally due to the state regardless of whether sales occur on-line, consumers don’t always know or comply with this requirement.  

As internet sales have steadily grown as a share of total retail sales, state and local government sales tax collections have been impacted. For 2012, internet sales in the U.S. totaled $226 billion, an increase of nearly 16 percent compared to 2011, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Read More

Uncategorized

The good people at Think Progress have posted a useful, if sobering, list of some of the worst moments of the 112th Congress — which, thankfully, ends today.

It includes: creating the “fiscal cliff,” letting the Violence Against Women Act expire, spending $1.5 million to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act,” voting against the environment at least 31 times. kowtowing to the NRA and many more.

Read the whole list by clicking here.

 

Uncategorized

Here is the kind of thing that was being referenced when we reported recently that the North Carolina General Assembly was starting to resemble the U.S. Congress.

According to this report, opponents of President Obama are so set on blocking consideration of any judicial appointees during the fourth year of his term that they’re even filibustering a judge with overwhelming conservative support!   

As you might recall, leaders of the General Assembly have stymied several of the Governor’s appointments to the state Board of Education (and other important state panels) in a similar and wholly political fashion.