Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: The absurd list of conditions not covered by junk GOP healthcare plans

Be sure to check out the excellent editorial that ran over the weekend in the Charlotte Observer that lays out the hard truth about Republican “health care reform” plans. In Do you have a preexisting condition that Republicans don’t want to cover? Check this list” the Observer explains the folly of conservative schemes to allow the sale of low-cost junk insurance plans that will simply return the country to the pre-Obamacare bad old days.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the kinds of condition no covered. This is from the editorial’s analysis of a junk plan Republicans are allowing to be sold in Iowa ( a similar scheme failed in North Carolina earlier this year):

It’s a list that should alarm Americans — not only those who can’t afford full-coverage health insurance, but anyone who has had or might someday suffer from the following conditions:

  • Ear, nose or throat.
  • Lung or respiratory.
  • Diabetes/growth/hormonal.
  • Liver or pancreas.
  • Urinary system.
  • Digestive or stomach.
  • Blood artery.
  • Heart or coronary.
  • Brain or nervous system.
  • Bone or skeletal.
  • Autoimmune
  • Reproductive.
  • Mental
  • Muscle/tissue
  • Transplant

That covers, well, pretty much everything.

There are other, similar lists out there, including a lengthier list of conditions that likely would have caused a person to be denied coverage or pay more for coverage under the American Health Care Act that Republicans tried to pass in 2017. That list included acne and allergies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It is a reminder that what many congressional Republicans want is for there to be no Obamacare, which would mean that “health benefit plans” would be far from the only plans to treat preexisting conditions harshly.

It is also a reminder of the gap between what Republicans say about health insurance and what they appear to want. Republicans say now that they don’t want to take away such protections, but they have done little thus far to ensure that. President Trump also has assured supporters, even this week, that he would fight for patients with preexisting conditions, but government lawyers told a Texas court in June that they will no longer defend those Obamacare protections. That court could rule any day on whether the Affordable Care Act and its protections are constitutional.

Meanwhile, we check lists and wonder: How vulnerable are we going to be?

Click here to read the entire editorial.

 

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, Environment, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Superintendent Mark Johnson’s new website may have broken North Carolina law

A controversial website touting Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson may have broken North Carolina law, a Policy Watch investigation has found.

That’s because Johnson’s publicly-funded site launched last month without vetting by the Department of Information Technology (DIT), an agency that, under state law, is expected to review the financing and contracts for any state agency web page.

No such review was conducted for Johnson’s site, according to Bill Holmes, Director of Legislative and Public Affairs for DIT. [Read more]

** BONUS READ: Gov. Cooper names three to State Board of Education

2. Whistling past the graveyard: Conservatives ignore Florence’s dire warnings for NC

If there’s been a single most maddening public narrative to accompany the hurricane disaster that has afflicted so much of North Carolina in recent weeks, it probably has to be the chipper, upbeat tone adopted by a number of conservative politicians and think tankers that Florence was, in effect, just “business as usual” for a state located on the nation’s southeast coast.

The spiel usually goes something like this: “We’re used to hurricanes in North Carolina and to pulling together to rebuild. Between our public emergency responders and private charities, we know how to handle these kinds of situations.”

While certainly admirable on some superficial level (obviously, it’s important to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of tragedy), when you dig below the surface, it’s clear that there are some extremely problematic undertones to the “all is well” rap. [Read more]

** BONUS READ: N.C. lawmakers must change course to help rebuild from Florence and ensure resiliency

3. What’s next for for proven but underfunded hog buyout program after Florence?

Just three weeks ago, Hurricane Florence barreled ashore between Wilmington and New Bern with the ferocity of a tyrant. After unleashing 140 mile per hour winds and torrential rain along the coast, she began to mosey inland.

Then, pregnant with rain, she rested. Florence emptied her contents, and the varicose rivers ruptured their banks, leaking contaminants from hog waste lagoons, poultry operations, wastewater treatment plants, coal ash basins and hazardous waste sites into eastern North Carolina waterways.

This week at the governor’s behest, the legislature convened a special session to appropriate disaster relief funds to help communities recover after Hurricane Florence. [Read more]

4.  Lawmakers plan on long game for Hurricane Florence recovery measures

Bipartisanship has become rare in North Carolina, but lawmakers put their differences aside Tuesday to take their first step toward helping those impacted by Hurricane Florence.

“It was really nice to experience collegiality in the legislative chambers and the sort of lack of partisanship,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford). “That was kind of refreshing.”

She and several other Democrats recognized that the two disaster recovery bills that passed unanimously were small first steps in taking care of what the state actually needed. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bills into law Wednesday afternoon. [Read more]

5. Misogyny, racism on full display in Kavanaugh confirmation process

With a president who’s been promising to overturn Roe v Wade and re-criminalize abortion since he started campaigning, those who believe in reproductive freedom are naturally skeptical that any nominee he chooses from his list is going to leave any precedent in place that supports access to abortion.

Anti-abortion extremists have consolidated almost enough federal power to do so, and are now working to tilt the balance of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe completely, and, in the meantime, make abortion access so restrictive that virtually no one can access abortion safely or easily. And Brett Kavanaugh, having already ruled that the U.S. government preventing a young immigrant from getting an abortion—even after she met all of the requirements set out by the state of Texas—is not an undue burden, seems their guy to do it. [Read more]

6. Editorial Cartoon: “I like Burr…and Tillis too!”

Commentary

Attorney/CPA authors best tax policy op-ed of the week

Be sure to check out attorney/CPA Richard Nordan’s outstanding op-ed critiquing the proposed state income tax cap that will appear on the fall ballot in today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. In “Reject the NC tax cap. It will hurt government and most taxpayers.” Nordan first blasts the two infamous experiments with similar caps (California’s ill-fated Proposition 13 and Colorado’s disastrous “TABOR” amendment).

He then goes on to say this:

“These constitutional tax caps deprive elected officials of the flexibility they need to answer the crises of the day. The caps also deprive future electorates from expressing their collective philosophy through the election process.

Moreover, by zeroing in on the income tax, this constitutional amendment would guarantee that if increased revenues are needed in the future, the legislature would be looking at the sales tax or property tax to make up the difference.

From the standpoint of the citizens, the property tax is the most blunt form of taxation. Most people will owe the total annual tax liability even if they got sick or lost their job. This is not a supple form of taxation.

The sales tax is regressive. Its burden grows heavier the lower your income.

The income tax, on the other hand, does change with your financial circumstances.. If you lost your job due to illness, were laid off or took time off to care for a child or aging parent, your income and hence your tax liability will go down.

From the standpoint of the state, this constitutional amendment will make it harder for future sessions of the legislature to grapple with the fiscal and economic conditions of the day or natural disasters, tying their hands to our collective state of mind in 2018.

From the standpoint of the citizen/taxpayer, this amendment makes it more likely that state and local governments will rely upon sales taxes and property taxes if increased revenues are needed in the future. These forms of taxation are less sensitive to the current income of the taxpayer.

The tax cap amendment is a lose-lose proposition for the government and the taxpayer and should be rejected.”

Amen.

Commentary

Amazing new website explores how legal aid will be critical to Florence recovery

If you get a few minutes, be sure to check out the new Hurricane Florence recovery website “Rebuilding Lives in the Carolinas”. The site, which was put together by an array of legal aid and legal services supporters in both North and South Carolina, explains “how civil legal aid is helping North and South Carolinians rebuild their lives and the economy after Hurricane Florence.”

The website includes attractive maps and other visuals that explain the storm’s history and destructive path.

It also explains the critical need for legal aid to help in the recovery:

A community’s ability to rebound in the weeks, months and years after a storm depends not only on meeting the immediate needs of food, water, and temporary shelter, but also on its investment in the long-term recovery of the people seeking to rebuild their lives, homes, jobs, and businesses.

Disasters leave in their wake myriad civil legal issues that, if not addressed early on, can lead to more costly problems in the long run. Civil legal aid organizations are uniquely equipped to resolve many of those problems, returning survivors to productivity and preventing future reliance on the state and federal government.

After the levee breaks that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, recovery came to a standstill in many areas because residents who had inherited property in the years prior to the storm hadn’t been able to afford going through probate. The lack of clear title made residents ineligible for FEMA benefits. As many as 20,000 people had trouble getting government aid to rebuild because they couldn’t prove they owned their homes, National Public Radio reported.

Civil legal aid is the remedy to such problems. It can provide early interventions to help survivors:

  • secure FEMA benefits and appeals
  • apply for nutrition assistance (SNAP/D-SNAP) & disaster unemployment benefits
  • protect themselves from fraudulent home repair and debris removal contractors
  • make life, medical and property insurance claims
  • replace wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster
  • avoid mortgage foreclosure
  • address landlord/tenant issues involving damaged or lost property
  • obtain assistance with utility bills

This video sums neatly sums up the critical services Legal Aid provides:

Commentary, News, Trump Administration

Kavanaugh update: Trump acts like fool; editorials blast NC GOP leader, call on Tillis and Burr to act

The toxic and destructive presidency of Donald Trump continues. Yesterday, the President of the United States once again behaved like a complete nincompoop at a rally in Mississippi by mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of the accusers of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. As AP reported, Trump actually even stooped to attempting to imitate Ford in an offensive and below-the-belt performance that Ford’s lawyer Michael Bromwich accurately described as “vicious, vile and soulless.” This is from the AP story:

“Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well?” Bromwich tweeted. “She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice.”

Meanwhile, here in North Carolina, two major new outlets blasted prominent Tar Heel Republicans for their performances in the Kavanaugh saga.

The lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer skewered GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse for his outrageous attacks on a Kavanaugh accuser. In “In North Carolina, the embodiment of why women stay silent about sexual assault,” the Observer put it this way:

The head of the North Carolina Republican Party calls one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers “a criminal” who “should go to prison.” And we wonder why women are hesitant to report sexual assault?

Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP, said of Julie Swetnick’s claims: “These things not only did not happen, they are impossible. So she needs to be prosecuted…”

How many women decide to remain in hiding when they hear comments like that? Republicans, from President Trump on down, have questioned why Kavanaugh’s accusers stayed quiet about the Supreme Court nominee for so long. But with his tweets about Swetnick on Sunday, Woodhouse himself becomes the living embodiment of why a woman might keep her secret hell to herself.

Finally, this morning’s lead editorial on WRAL.com (“Burr and Tillis, tell Trump to find new Supreme Court nominee”) explains why Kavanaugh’s juvenile behavior last week ought to be sufficient grounds to reject his nomination:

The scrutiny that Kavanaugh’s faced in his confirmation has been intense. But that’s just the way things are and given his experience – as a lawyer working with Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, working in the White House and as a federal judge – shouldn’t have been a surprise or anything he’d be unprepared for.

When that scrutiny reached its height and put him to the test, Kavanaugh failed to exhibit the kind of behavior appropriate of a justice on the highest court in the land. Read more