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The NC House released its version of the budget today, and, thankfully, the House’s budget does not include the substantial cut in health care coverage for pregnant women that was part of the NC Senate’s budget.  While a very good start showing that legislators in the House recognized the serious detrimental health effects for mother and baby of cutting health coverage, this issue will not be going completely away just yet.  Since the NC Senate included the cut for pregnant women it in its budget this cut could come back at any time.  Stay tuned.

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We wrote a brief, which you can read here, about a Senate budget provision that will throw thousands of pregnant women off of Medicaid. The bill moves Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women from 185 percent of federal poverty level (about $21,000 per year for a single person) to 133 percent of federal poverty level (or about $15,000 per year for a single person).

The Senate also creates a small voucher program to help some of these women purchase private insurance, but the way the provision is written means that very few women, if any, will qualify for full coverage during their entire pregnancy.

Besides violating good sense, it also turns out that this provision violates federal regulation.

The federal rule regarding Medicaid eligibility says that states can’t cut the minimum income for pregnant women to qualify below what the state had authorized by July 1, 1989. This date was chosen because many states expanded Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women in 1988 and 1989.

In its 1989 budget (which became effective on July 1, 1989) the North Carolina legislature authorized Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women to increase to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Although the increase to 150 percent of federal poverty level did not take effect until 1990, the higher rate was authorized by July 1, 1989.

That means that the North Carolina legislature, even if it is determined to kick pregnant women out of Medicaid, can’t set eligibility below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. This is just one more reason to delay or cancel this ill conceived plan until we understand its impact.

Women and the Economy

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day that marks the wage gap between working women and men. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, each year Equal Pay Day falls on a Tuesday to illustrate how far into the work week women must work to earn what men earned the previous week. Nationally, women are still paid 77 cents for each dollar earned annually by men – a gap of 23 cents.

Here in North Carolina, working women fare a little better, but not by much. North Carolina’s working women are still only earning 80.7 percent of men’s earnings.

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