Red state Medicaid expansion momentum continues to grow

Protesters in Missouri (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

The refusal of Republican legislators to expand Medicaid in North Carolina continues to render our state more and more of an outlier — even amongst states controlled by GOP legislatures.

In just the past week, two dark red states — Oklahoma and Missouri — received new attention for making expansion a reality.

This is from a report from the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute:

Oklahoma successfully implements Medicaid expasnion

Since Medicaid expansion became an option for states in 2012, most Oklahoma lawmakers have been reluctant to take advantage of this life-saving opportunity, despite its health, economic, and fiscal benefits. In response to legislative foot-dragging, advocates leveraged the initiative petition process to put the issue to a vote of the people. In June 2020, voters passed the measure, enshrining Medicaid expansion in the state Constitution. After nearly a decade of opportunity, expansion became reality in Oklahoma on July 1, 2021.

More than 135,000 Oklahomans have already been approved for expansion coverage, and some 70,000 more likely qualify. With thousands of newly eligible residents able to see their doctors without financial stress, Oklahomans will be healthier people, better workers, and more financially secure. Expansion also will bring financial benefits statewide, with an estimated 27,000 new jobs, $15.6 billion in economic activity, and nearly $500 million new tax revenue in the first five years.

Implementation of Oklahoma’s expansion has been successful, largely because of legislative commitment to funding the program, our Medicaid agency’s prioritization of enrollment, and a unified effort by a broad coalition of advocates and community members. While the state’s seen a few growing pains,  thousands of Oklahomans newly have access to health insurance, financial stability, and peace of mind. (Read more…)

Meanwhile, the Missouri Independent reports that GOP efforts to block the decision of voters to expand Medicaid in the “Show Me” state have also foundered:

Missouri Supreme Court rules voter-approved Medicaid expansion is constitutional

Missouri must expand Medicaid to 275,000 eligible people who were expecting coverage under a constitutional amendment that took effect July 1, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In an unanimous opinion, the court overturned a trial court ruling that the amendment, passed in August 2020 was unconstitutional because it may increase the state’s cost for the Medicaid program. 

By funding the services required under federal law, the state must allow everyone eligible to access those services, the court wrote.

“With no ambiguity, the amounts appropriated and other extrinsic evidence cannot be used to alter the plain language of the purposes stated – to fund MO HealthNet without distinguishing between benefits provided to individuals who are eligible as part of the pre-expansion population and those eligible only under” the expansion amendment, the court wrote.

The ruling “is about as concise of a win as you could imagine for the people of the state of Missouri,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. (Read more…)

In short, as it has for years now, the national momentum to expand Medicaid continues to pick up steam and the stubborn obstructionism of Republican lawmakers in the shrinking minority of states that includes North Carolina is looking more and more like the obstruction that so many Southern states pursue in resisting civil rights legislation in the mid-20th Century: i.e. doomed to inevitable failure.

The best editorial of the weekend: General Assembly leaders need to end this deceptive practice

Senate leader Phil Berger has made “gut and replace” one of his favorite legislative tactics.

In case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out the fine Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com entitled “‘Gut & Replace’ tactic hides legislators’ accountability to voters.”

At issue in the essay is the longstanding practice whereby state legislators evade their own rules (and public scrutiny) by bringing up and passing entirely new pieces of legislation out of nowhere late in a legislative session and well after the annual “crossover deadline” that’s designed to prevent such a possibility.

As the editorial explains, a bill is approved by one house and sent to the other to address a particular subject. Months later, the second house that received the bill, “guts” the measure and rewrites it to deal with an entirely different subject. Then the new bill is sent back to the house in which it started, where it can be approved in a single “concurrence” vote. Often the entirely new measure is not even reviewed by a committee when it returns to its original house, despite being in completely different form.

This is from the editorial:

“Gut & Replace.” It is a favorite strong-arm tactic of Senate Leader Phil Berger. There’s nothing new about this legislative version of “bait & switch.” It’s been used by Democrats as well as Republicans.

It is a troubling practice that destroys a basic pillar of representative government — the ability of voters to hold their elected representative accountable for their actions.

Berger has transformed “Gut & Replace” from a rarely used scheme into a routine way of doing the public’s business. The tactic takes a bill that has already been passed, deletes the content of that legislation and replaces it with whatever Berger wants. It transforms, not merely amends.

The editorial lists several recent bills in which this sketchy practice has been employed, including notably, a recent controversial bill to overhaul interscholastic athletics in the state that, as it was originally passed by the House unanimously, dealt with helping families dealing with autism.

As the editorial rightfully notes in conclusion:

This tactic makes things — the good or bad of the legislation; what needs it meets or misses; who it benefits or hurts – irrelevant. It renders critical votes moving it along in the legislative process meaningless.

“This is not a good way to do the peoples’ business,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat who’s served in the House for nine terms. She knows from where she talks. In 2010, after the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster, she worked with others to take a Senate-passed environmental bill and transform it into the Oil Spill Liability, Response and Preparedness Act. “It was an emergency situation.”

There is no emergency concerning high school athletics, or the other issues now being rushed through via “Gut & Replace.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

August 5 Crucial Conversation: Theodore Johnson on his new book, “When the Stars Begin to Fall”

Join us Thursday, August 5 at 2:00 p.m. for a very special (and virtual) Crucial Conversation:

Author, scholar, and former U.S. Navy Commander Theodore Johnson, discusses his new book, When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America

Click here to register.

“Racism is an existential threat to America,” Theodore Johnson declares at the start of his profound and exhilarating book, When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America. It is a refutation of the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution that all men and women are inherently equal. And yet racism continues to corrode our society. If we cannot overcome it, Johnson argues, while the United States will remain as a geopolitical entity, the promise that made America unique on Earth will have died.

When the Stars Begin to Fall makes a compelling, ambitious case for a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to mitigate racism. Weaving memories of his own and his family’s multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, into his elegant narrative, Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America.

Join us for a special Q&A with the author.

Theodore Johnson is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, where he undertakes research on race, politics, and American identity. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, he was a National Fellow at New America and a Commander in the United States Navy, serving for twenty years in a variety of positions, including as a White House Fellow in the first Obama administration and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Click here to register.

Don’t miss this very special event.

When: Thursday August 5 at 2:00 p.m.

Where: Online; pre-register from the comfort of your home or office.

Suggested contribution: $10 (click here to support NC Policy Watch)

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or [email protected]

Madison Cawthorn officially flips his lid, promises to “prosecute” Fauci

For those who may have only experienced the frequently outrageous and sometimes downright deranged rants of North Carolina freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn in print, you’ll undoubtedly want to take a moment to see and hear this deeply troubled and delusional young man in action by checking out the following excerpts from his recent appearance on a right-wing show called “Just the Truth.”

Cawthorn, as you can see, offers the truly bizarre, absurd and frightening assurance that “when” Republicans retake control of Congress in 2022, he [Cawthorn] will “make sure consequences are doled out” to Dr. Anthony Fauci and that Fauci is pursuing his nefarious plot to “lie to the American people” for the purpose of “seeing his name in the news” and to “get fame and fortune.”

As usual, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that such a confused and malevolent figure is representing our state in the United States Congress, but it must be conceded that when it comes to the congressman’s latter unhinged accusations about Fauci’s supposed motives in working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Cawthorn is at least holding forth on a subject about which he knows a great deal.

Mecklenburg teacher obtains, publishes comments submitted to Lt. Gov’s education “FACTS” task force

Justin Parmenter

As is his wont, veteran Mecklenburg County public school teacher Justin Parmenter has done the state a valuable service in recent weeks by obtaining and publishing dozens of comments submitted by members of the public to the new “F.A.C.T.S. task force” established by North Carolina’s always embarrassing Lt. Governor, Mark Robinson. (Note to the Lite Guv: you’ve got a typo in the headline on the task force website.)

Robinson, as you’re probably aware by now, has courted controversy throughout his brief political career by repeatedly uttering outrageous comments that make Donald Trump sound like a thoughtful and mild-mannered intellectual. In particular, Robinson has a special affinity for dispensing ignorant, anti-Semitic barbs that would, 30 years ago, have gotten him kicked out of all major political parties and disqualified him from holding high office. His “task force” supposedly represents an effort to, in a manner that would make Joe McCarthy proud, ferret out all the leftist indoctrination to which the state’s diabolical cadre of commie teachers are subjecting their students.

Not surprisingly, the comments Robinson received are unlikely to shake up, much less spur any kind of dramatic overhaul in, the world of public education. Parmenter — God bless him —  went through 506 of them and published some representative samples in a pair of posts on his website, Notes from the Chalkboard.

Click here and here to read them.

As he explained in the introduction to the first post, entitled “Many of the submissions to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s teacher indoctrination portal are just people roasting Mark Robinson”:

Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson launched his F.A.C.T.S. (“Fairness and Accountability for Teachers and Students”) website in March, touting it as a tool to help smoke out the rampant liberal indoctrination that is occurring in North Carolina’s classrooms.

But if you see any smoke, it’s more likely from the copious roasts of the F.A.C.T.S. project and Robinson’s extreme politics that have been submitted through the portal.

After obtaining and reading all 506 F.A.C.T.S. submissions through a public records request, I can report that a significant number of them are complaints from people who see the lieutenant governor’s effort as a shameful political witch hunt or tongue-in-cheek reports intended to mock his project. In addition, many of the submissions are from North Carolinians who more generally object to his homophobic, xenophobic views.

The submissions are not all criticisms and roasts, and they do include a good bit of generic bashing of public schools, wild accusations of teachers being satanic communists, and pleas to end the persecution of white people by Robinson’s fringe base.

And this is from the intro to post #2 (“‘I guess she had the right skin color.’ Complaints to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s indoctrination portal dominated by white racial resentment”):

Many of the 506 complaints to Robinson’s task force come from North Carolinians who appear deeply concerned about what they perceive as a move away from a white Christian-centered system of public education.

These submissions include recommendations to cancel Black History Month, pleas to stop making white students feel guilty by teaching so much about slavery – which one individual remarked “is getting old”– and suggestions to end hiring practices aimed at increasing diversity of school staff.

They provide a helpful lens to understand the real motivation behind moves across the country to restrict classroom discussions on race and various types of oppression under the false pretense of fighting the boogeyman “critical race theory.”

The bottom line: Let’s hope Parmenter and other gifted educators like him who care deeply about providing our state’s schoolchildren with the education they deserve keep calling out Robinson’s nonsense.