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Graduation capsToday’s good news about North Carolina’s rising high school graduation rate serves to highlight several important facts that ought to be taken into account as the public and state leaders debate the future of our public schools. Here are five:

#1 – There are no “quick fixes” in a giant system like the North Carolina public schools. The latest encouraging numbers are no more the result of recent legislative actions than, say, improved traffic flow on the interstate highway system is. To improve outcomes in such massive systems takes sustained attention and investments over a period of many years.

#2- The new results are, therefore, quite clearly the result of many years of hard work by a lot of people. At the core of the success, however, was the widespread acknowledgement by virtually all stakeholders — elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, teachers, parents, advocates etc… — that the state had a big problem and that something had to be done.  The widespread acceptance and discussion of this fact led, over time, to more and more people talking about the problem and more and more people wanting and trying to do something about it.  Many ideas undoubtedly flopped, but over time, the cumulative effect of lots of creative thinking and sustained attention has born some excellent fruit.

#-3 – The work to improve graduation rates starts before a child even enters school. Read More

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From a new report by the the wonks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The share of residents without health coverage fell in 20 states last year, Census data released yesterday show, while rising in just one. This improvement largely reflect increased private coverage among young adults — helped by a health reform provision allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26 — and greater enrollment in public programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In North Carolina the uninsured rate fell from 16.8% to 16.3%. And despite population growth and hard economic times, the actual number of uninsured people fell by more than 44,000.  

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Jill Hudgins, a freelance writer living in Durham, published an important opinion piece in the News & Observer today about finding insurance through Inclusive Health.

Here’s how she begins:

DURHAM — While Republicans rant and rave about the evils of “Obamacare,” many individuals are already benefiting from the reforms. I’m one of them.

I’ve been branded with the scarlet letter “P” for pre-existing condition, denied coverage for years. Thanks to a new program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), I’m now a card-carrying member of the insured.

You should read the entire article to see how Obamacare is providing benefits to people with pre-existing conditions.

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There are those defining issues raised in the General Assembly every so often that pit the state’s most powerful interest groups against the needs of consumers and average citizens. The vote on today’s health benefits exchange is one such issue.

Health reform requires that North Carolina establish a health exchange, although we do not need to pass legislation this session. Blue Cross and Blue Shield was quick to pounce, getting their friends in the General Assembly to sponsor a bill crafted by the company’s attorneys.

This legislation stacks the board governing the exchange with interests that either opposed health reform or are seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This bill puts those groups in charge of implementing reform in the state. This bill strips the exchange of any ability to adapt to changing market conditions. It takes away all ability to provide value to consumers. It is, in short, an insult.

This has nothing to do with political party and everything to do with access.

Consumer groups have pleaded with legislators — Democrat and Republican — not to blatently harm their constituents at the behest of these interest groups. It is astounding how hard you have to work to convince even a small clutch of lawmakers to vote the interests of average people. We don’t enjoy access and we don’t host lavish fundraisers.

All we have on our side are justice, determination, long memories, and a lot of people. After all, every consumer group in the state, and this is a remarkable thing, every consumer group in the state opposes this exchange bill. Every editorial has opposed this bill. Every poll shows broad opposition to this bill.

We haven’t heard anything on the exchange from the Governor’s office. After a brief stab at compromise, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin also has been mum on the issue of the health exchange. His office has said it won’t oppose anything the General Assembly cooks up.

So, here we are. A radically anti-consumer exchange bill will likely pass the House today. The only thing standing between you and a health care system dominated by insurance companies in perpetuity is the Senate and the Governor and the resistance of the people.

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by Rebecca Clendenin, Action for Children. 

Yesterday, monumental legislation was signed into being by Governor Mike Easley.  The final state budget included NC Kid's Care and a 3.5% refundable earned income tax credit (EITC), both of which will improve outcomes for children and families across our state.

NC Kids’ Care, which begins on July 1, 2008, will make available affordable health insurance coverage to 38,000 currently uninsured children in families between 200%-300% of the Federal Poverty Line ($42,000-$62,000 per year for a family of four).  Families would participate in the cost of care in the form of deductibles, co-payments and monthly premiums subsidized on a sliding scale based on income.  The NC legislature approved $368,000 to establish administration of the program in the first year, and has agreed to fully fund the Kids’ Care program at $7 million in subsequent years.  This expansion of health insurance means that thousands more children will become eligible for affordable health coverage.

Additionally, the NC General Assembly adopted a 3.5% NC refundable EITC.  The EITC will give a tax credit to more than 825,000 working North Carolinians at the time they file their state tax returns.

Action for Children hopes that this marks a first step in providing even more needed supports for our working families.