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Lest anyone have any doubt about what the real life impact is of the the McCrory-Berger-Tillis decision to refuse to expand Medicaid over the last two years, the NAACP will lead an event today at the Old State Capitol Building in Raleigh to remind folks:

“To dramatize the loss of life, healthcare, jobs, and hospitals due to the extreme and immoral denial of Medicaid Expansion, the people of North Carolina will come together on October 20th to hold a funeral procession around the State Capitol.”

What is the result of the Governor and General Assembly’s decision to block Medicaid Expansion?
• 27,044 diabetics not getting necessary medications
• 40,000 women not receiving recommended preventive screenings
• 14,776 more families receiving catastrophic medical bills
• 2,800 deaths that could have been prevented
• The rejection of $4.9 million per day by North Carolina’s Governor and General Assembly that would provide coverage to 500,058 uninsured people (since January 1, 2014)

Why North Carolina should expand Medicaid:
• It would extend insurance coverage to more than 500,000 North Carolinians.
• More than 300,000 of these people have no other insurance options.
• The federal government will fund more than 90% of this expansion.
• It would create roughly 25,000 jobs by 2016.
• It would bring in more than $2 billion in federal funds to the state every year.
• It would save North Carolina $65.4 million over the next 8 years.”

Recent signals from the McCrory administration indicate a willingness to finally rethink their stubborn opposition. Let’s hope today’s event abets that process.

Commentary

The Alliance for a Just Society along with Action NC released a report today titled “The Promise of Quality, Affordable Health Care for Women: Is North Carolina Delivering?” The answer, in a word, is no.

Overall the report gives our state a C- on women’s health when looking at a range of measures from health outcomes to access. Most abysmal is the state’s ranking on health insurance coverage. There we merited a D-. The uninsured rate among non-elderly women in NC is nearly 17 percent. There are also tremendous racial disparities in uninsured rates. Nearly 19 percent of black women are uninsured in the state, according to the report, and almost 39 percent of Latinas are uninsured. Our state ranks 50 out of 50 for uninsured rate among Latinas.

The grades don’t climb much higher from there. On women’s access to health services we earned a mediocre C and on health outcomes we get a C-. This is a report card we might want to hide in the couch cushions.

But there’s good news that could boost our lackluster scores. As the report recommends, expanding Medicaid would put a major dent in our uninsured rate, help close the health disparity gap, and improve outcomes.

NC lawmakers once famously claimed that Medicaid expansion has nothing to do with women’s health. This report card, and hundreds of thousands of women across the state, beg to differ.

Commentary

The lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning rightfully laments the fact that North Carolina’s economic recovery appears to be petering out while other states rebound more quickly.

In the end, however, there’s no mystery. The persistence of unemployment points to how badly the job market deteriorated and how tax cuts and spending cuts do little to restore it. North Carolina has cut taxes in a way that disproportionally benefits higher earners while expanding taxes or removing exemptions that helped middle-income and low-income earners and retirees. Tax breaks for the wealthy tend to go into savings while a tax break for lower income earners would have gone directly into the economy.

North Carolina’s cuts in state funding for education have an outsized impact on the economy. Unlike many states where local governments bear most of the cost of schools, North Carolina funds education primarily from the state level. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid has cost the state’s economy billions of dollars in federal funds and reduced or blunted employment by hospitals.

There’s not much state government can do to escape the influence of the national economy. But states can do more to soften the effects of a national recession and speed the effects of a recovery. North Carolina should spend aggressively on education, participate fully in the Affordable Care Act and focus tax breaks lower down the income scale.

That’s not being done, and the economic pain is being extended.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Charlotte Observer offers a glimmer of hope on this front in the form of additional confirmation from the McCrory administration that it has finally recognized one of its biggest blunders when it comes to pumping dollars into the state’s economy — the failure to expand Medicaid:

Read More

Commentary

Conspiracy kooksThere’s very little that right-wing opponents of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act aren’t willing to claim in public about America’s increasingly successful and transformative health care law. From “death panels” to imaginary massive tax hikes to allegations about global conspiracies and plots to impose martial law and suspend the Constitution, the loony conspiracy theories are as endlessly creative as they are delusional.

As a general matter, the kookiness does seem to be somewhat on the wane of late as the ACA slowly but surely moves millions of new people onto the insurance rolls while helping to contain the growth in health care costs. Heck, even the McCrory administration has finally recognized that North Carolina must expand Medicaid under the ACA.

For a few true believers and unrepentant, whatever-it-takes propagandists, however, the battle is still on and just about any anti-Obamacare claim — however preposterous — will do. For a classic example, check out this post by a staffer over at the Locke Foundation entitled “Medicaid Expansion Could Steer Resources Away From the Most Vulnerable.” Here, as best as can be determined, is the “argument”: Read More

Commentary

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.