- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Jan. 7

The Fayetteville Observer on expanding Medicaid:

Sometimes a leader has to do what needs to be done and ask permission later. That’s the course Gov. Roy Cooper is taking with Medicaid expansion. It’s making legislative leaders furious.

Well, tough. Cooper is trying to do exactly what needs to be done - what Gov. Pat McCrory should have had the guts to do four years ago. Medicaid - the government health insurance program for the poor, children and disabled people - was supposed to expand to cover the “working poor” under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But the courts ruled states couldn’t be forced to do it. As a result, most “red” states refused to participate.

But the leaders of many right-leaning states saw the folly of their boycott. The program is mostly funded by the federal government, it creates thousands of new jobs in the health-care industry and it extends insurance to a population group that has some of the worst health outcomes in our society - a problem that eventually costs taxpayers a bundle. Many Republican governors - Vice President-elect Mike Pence among them - negotiated with Washington and came up with Medicaid expansion plans palatable to conservatives.

But not North Carolina. Gov. McCrory continued to insist that this state’s Medicaid program was an out-of-control mess - long after his Health and Human Services leaders created a Medicaid management system widely considered a national model. Legislative leaders found it preferable to remain ideologues rather than pragmatists like Pence.

An expanded Medicaid program in North Carolina would extend coverage to about 650,000 residents, add as much as $4 billion a year to the state’s economy and create as many as 40,000 new jobs in the health-care system. Washington would cover 95 percent of that expense and Cooper proposes that the state’s hospitals kick in the remaining 5 percent - leaving the state with no additional tax burden.

Instead of considering the benefits, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore roared in defiance, quickly sending federal administrators a message that Cooper’s initiative is illegal.

Obamacare may be repealed this year, but we doubt that Congress is willing to dump more than 20 million Americans from their newfound health insurance. Something will take Obamacare’s place, and we expect it will include expanded Medicaid.

Enough of the partisan posturing. It’s long past time to take care of our state’s struggling poor and give them the health-care coverage that is rightfully theirs.

Online: https://www.fayobserver.com/

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Jan. 7

The Daily Herald of Roanoke Rapids on the Affordable Care Act:

A clarion call has come from the GOP since the presidential nomination race started in earnest in 2015: Repeal and replace Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act has remained the largest target of all: larger than immigration, larger than national defense and larger than fixing the incredibly rising national deficit. That’s all likely because the idea of free health care paid for with increased premiums strapped to the backs of people who were paying for health insurance in the first place is a hard pill for many Americans to swallow. In North Carolina, rates for exchange plans increased more than 40 percent during open enrollment coming into 2017. In rural areas of the state, those rates went up 80 percent, according to healthinsurance.org. It doesn’t help that Blue Cross-Blue Shield of North Carolina and Cigna are the only two N.C. insurance carriers remaining on the exchange, better known as HealthCare.gov. So much for choice.

Most of the exchange increases, which also serve as a level to which private premiums can be set, would be paid through subsidies if enough healthy people were signing up. North Carolina, a beacon among its peers when it comes to Obamacare, is finding it more difficult, like most states, to pay for the subsidies. This means even higher taxes to offset the costs to the state for the program.

So repeal and replace Obamacare, right? Sure. But replace it with what?

House Republicans in Washington proposed a plan in May that offers some of the popular tenets of Obamacare: no discrimination for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26.

The Republican plan, first authored by House Speaker Paul Ryan, also allows states that expanded the number of people eligible for Medicaid to maintain those numbers, and it gives people the opportunity to buy insurance across state lines, which invariably brings greater competition to the health insurance marketplace.

The GOP plan is a good one. But it is still that, a plan. Since it was proposed it has been poked and prodded more than a test patient at a proctology practicum, and with no real result. Still no legislation.

We believe Obamacare has run its course. If it is not stopped now, the nation risks pulling the trigger in 2020 on the “Cadillac Tax,” which will hit employers and employees with a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health insurance. The 40 percent, of course, will force people to accept higher premiums and reduced coverage, the result of no one wanting to pay another tax.

As we noted, the Affordable Care Act offers some benefits that the Republican majority in the House seems to appreciate. But with the gap between higher premiums and less coverage growing every year, it is time for a fix, and the GOP better be ready to ink its proposal. A healthcare plan that blends the best of what the public and private sectors can do for the nation is a solid course to follow. Obamacare simply did not offer that course.

Americans want a change, they want a good one, and they want it now. The Republican majority better be able to offer that change. If not, the party may find itself flat lining during the elections in 2018 and rolled out on a gurney to make room for yet another congressional change in leadership.

Online: https://www.rrdailyherald.com/

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Jan. 9

The News & Observer of Raleigh on why North Carolina Republicans shouldn’t try to block an upcoming special election:

A three-judge federal panel has delivered, to no one’s surprise, an expected order that North Carolina must push ahead with a special election in 2017. The election comes as a result of an earlier ruling ordering new legislative maps to be drawn by March 28 for new districts. Any districts that have to be altered to correct unconstitutional gerrymandering will have to hold special elections this year.

Republicans, who made this mess with their crazy quilt districts designed for the purpose of electing more Republicans - not fair representation - naturally will push on, going to the U.S. Supreme Court and dragging out the legal fight as long as they can (and on the public dime).

They’ll never admit, of course, that in drawing districts they were trying to put the fix in on elections to ensure their continued control on Jones Street, even it that meant packing some districts with African-American voters to weaken their impact in other districts.

They’ve lost in court, and in the 2017 elections, while they won’t change GOP control should Democrats win more seats in more fair districts, it’s possible that Republicans could lose their current veto-proof majority - which could create real problems for them if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper started vetoing the next edition of their foolishness.

They’d do better to give up this ridiculous, wasteful fight and just move on with drawing new, and more fair, lines.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/


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