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The powerful combination of history, an inexhaustible money machine and shameless gerrymandering produced impressive electoral victories for the Right in this week’s election, but it also remains a powerful truth that when you actually ask voters directly for their opinions on core pocketbook issues, they continue to favor progressive solutions.

You’ve probably already heard about the overwhelming success of several minimum wage hike proposals around the country, but here’s another striking example in which even red state voters voted overwhelmingly for the progressive position: Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, the Badger state held an advisory referendum in which voters in 19 counties and one mid-size city were asked whether the state should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The vote: Yes – 73%, No-27%.

Now, mind you, the referendum wasn’t just conducted in a few liberal bastions. Read More

Commentary

Medicaid expansionIn case you missed it over the weekend Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer had an on-the-money column about the latest  bizarre claim from the McCrory administration that we can now expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act because they have “fixed” what was a “broken” system. As Barnett notes:

“It’s good news that the governor is now open to doing the right thing about Medicaid expansion. Even Tillis now says he might favor it. Refusing to do it could cost the state $51 billion in lost federal money over the next decade, according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But this change of position shouldn’t pass without a look at the rationale for not doing it in the first place. Wos’ reign at DHHS has been marked by massive provider payment problems, an exodus of staff, plummeting morale and expensive consultants hired to fill in the gaps. Now she’s saying that the administration of Medicaid has been fixed and it’s ready to take on a half-million new recipients.

If that turnaround is true, Wos has accomplished an amazing feat of introducing efficiency and accountability. Yet there’s nothing to suggest that is the case. DHHS under Wos remains an agency riddled by vacancies and burdened by a reputation for administrative dysfunction that has discouraged top applicants. But the Medicaid program itself was never “broken”. It has operated in North Carolina for decades and in recent years has successfully held down administrative costs compared with the national average. Medicaid’s “out-of-control costs,” which Republican legislators say busted the state budget, reflect wishful budgeting. Simply putting a number in the budget won’t hold down costs. People need treatment, and when there’s a recession Medicaid rolls grow. With the economy now improving, Medicaid costs are coming in under budget.”

In other words: It’s great that McCrory and Wos want to expand Medicaid and even fine if they want to delude themselves about the reasoning, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows their claims and rationales are bogus.
Commentary

People fear the unfamiliar. It’s human nature. When a new threat emerges, our minds often race about it — even when the same old threats are far more worrisome.

This is one reason a healthy (heh) number of my friends are anxious about the Ebola virus. Maybe yours are, too. Heck, maybe you are. Well, here’s the good news: while certainly a frightening disease, Ebola is unlikely to be a widespread public health threat in this country.

There’s bad news, however. Another, less flashy threat to public health is far more dangerous to people in North Carolina and states like it. (The additional bad news: it’s also deeply troubling that Americans are more concerned about a disease killing one person inside our borders than the nearly 5,000 Ebola has killed in Africa so far. That’s a topic for another day.)

The real public health threat is the failure of some American states, including the Old North State, to expand Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion would help more of our neighbors get health insurance, which is vital in preventing the advance of disease — and the early deaths that come with that disease. Here in North Carolina alone, about half a million people lack health insurance that would have been covered had we made the choice to expand Medicaid.

What does that mean? It means more preventable deaths every year. A team of researchers for Harvard found that failure to expand Medicaid could mean as many as 1,145 more deaths in North Carolina every year.

Based on those numbers, that’s about three more preventable deaths in North Carolina every day. Think about the math of that. Read More

Commentary

The ideologues on the far right may continue to scream for “repeal” of Obamacare, but the evidence continues to pile up that this is simply not something that’s going to happen. That was the analysis delivered by Judy Waxman of the National Women’s Law Center at this morning’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation breakfast in Raleigh. Waxman noted that amendments to the ACA are certainly likely — indeed, she thinks they are essential — but based on decades of experience in Washington and her numerous political and policy contacts around the country, she believes repeal is simply not in the cards.

Waxman’s analysis is consistent with this AP story that ran on several North Carolina news sites this morning. This is from the version that ran in Raleigh’s News & Observer under the headline “GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away”:

Nine Republican governors have expanded Medicaid for low-income people in their states, despite their own misgivings and adamant opposition from conservative legislators. Three more governors are negotiating with the Democratic administration in Washington.

Rather than demanding repeal, the governors generally have sought federal concessions to make their decisions more politically acceptable at home. That approach is in sharp contrast to the anti-Obamacare fervor of their party in Congress.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he doesn’t think there will be a repeal in Washington, even if Republicans win a Senate majority and consolidate their hold on the House in next month’s election.

“That’s not gonna happen,” the Republican governor told The Associated Press during a recent re-election campaign swing.

This take on the situation is consistent with the views expressed recently and repeatedly by the McCrory administration of late that Medicaid expansion in North Carolina under the ACA should and will occur in the near future.

Commentary
Funeral

Photo: NC NAACP

As the North Carolina NAACP holds a “Denial of Medicaid Funeral Procession” today, it’s worth considering some of the facts and data surrounding the impact of North Carolina’s ongoing refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act:

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine’s 2009 Access to Care study begins with this statement: “The lack of health insurance coverage is the foremost barrier to accessing health care services.”

In the report’s introduction it continues:

In a statewide survey of adults, nearly half of the uninsured in North Carolina reported forgoing necessary care due to cost, compared to 10% of individuals with insurance coverage. Lack of coverage also adversely affects health as the uninsured are less likely to get preventive screenings or ongoing care for chronic conditions. Consequently, the uninsured have a greater likelihood than people with coverage of being diagnosed with severe health conditions (such as late stage cancer), being hospitalized for preventable health problems, or dying prematurely. In fact, adults who lack insurance coverage are 25% more likely to die prematurely than adults with insurance coverage.

A Families USA report in 2010 estimated that before the Affordable Care Act passed nearly 1,000 North Carolinians died each year between 2005 and 2010 due to lack of health insurance.

What has changed is that the states now have an unprecedented tool for saving lives. North Carolina now has the opportunity to extend health insurance coverage to nearly all low-income adults, the majority of whom are working. The federal government will finance nearly the entire cost of this coverage expansion. Not expanding coverage is not only morally misguided but it is also fiscally irresponsible. Read More