- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Oct. 17

The News & Observer of Raleigh on North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein joining a federal lawsuit:

In a thankfully predictable continuation of his commitment to protect North Carolina consumers, state Attorney General Josh Stein is joining 18 other attorneys general in a federal lawsuit to block the foolish and purely political maneuver of President Trump to stop federal subsidies for those covered by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The move by Trump follows Republican failures to repeal the ACA, and it’s a nasty little trick akin to a kid hiding a dump truck in a sand box. Except that cutting subsidies will cost millions of people their insurance and force them into the “junk insurance” Trump now advocates as a replacement for “Obamacare.” That would give people low-cost insurance in exchange for low-quality, minimal care.

The fact that Republicans have had such a hard time replacing the ACA - their replacements, so-called, would have cost 20 million or more people their health insurance - ought to tell the president and Republican leaders that the momentum for erasing President Obama’s signature achievement has diminished. In fact, more recent polls have shown more people in favor of “Obamacare” than opposed to it.

But in Trumpworld, that doesn’t matter. The president has no agenda of his own, so he’s become obsessed with dismantling anything associated with President Obama, whether it’s the ACA or the Iran nuclear deal.

Stein, who once headed the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, understands the human price to be paid for Trump’s petulance. “This is a triple whammy,” he says. “The increased costs for poor people, more people will choose to be uninsured and hundreds of billions of dollars more for the federal government to pay (in other subsidies to keep general insurance premiums lower).” Stein notes there are 300,000 North Carolinians who get the subsidies Trump has ended, but 500,000 North Carolinians who are insured through the ACA. This year, thanks to an agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield on premium costs, most of those people will be OK. But next year, Stein says, the increases might be 20-25 percent for people insured through the health care exchanges.

In announcing the fact he was joining the suit, Stein said, “I am suing President Trump today for his unlawful and reckless decision to stop payments that help hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians afford health insurance. His act wreaks havoc on the health care system. It will lead to higher insurance costs for individuals, cause insurance companies to leave the individual health insurance market, increase the number of people without health insurance and cost taxpayers $194 billion over the next 10 years.”

North Carolina has one of the nation’s most robust enrollments for insurance under the ACA. It also has substantial numbers of families that rely on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Had the state’s Republican-run legislature opted to expand Medicaid as allowed under the ACA, hundreds of thousands of people would have been helped.

In North Carolina, only Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers insurance in all 100 counties, and the company is having to request rate hikes to cover what will be lost if the subsidies are eliminated. That’s only going to continue if Trump successfully implodes the ACA altogether.

The president’s wild promises of a health care insurance system that would be cheaper and better for all Americans are clearly something he never had a plan to achieve, and now he offers no plan of his own but the continued promise to destroy Obamacare, which he has pronounced a disaster. But it’s hardly a disaster for the 20 million-plus Americans who have health insurance because of it.

Only through actions of elected officials such as Stein banding together in an attempt to truly serve the public will North Carolinians and other Americans have health insurance they can afford that will keep them and their families healthy, or restore them to health after an illness.

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


Oct. 16

Winston-Salem Journal on the fight against breast cancer:

The fight goes on. By now, you have your paper with that pink front page, part of our annual campaign to ramp up the fight against breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It’s an especially important fight in a city like ours, known nationwide for its state-of-the-art medicine. And too often in this city, and in towns and cities nationwide, women - and sometimes men - get diagnoses of breast cancer. Fortunately, it’s often not the death sentence it was in too many cases years ago. But the deaths do continue. They include high-profile ones, such as that of Elizabeth Edwards in 2010.

And they include relatively anonymous cases, including our loved ones.

Many people we love live with breast cancer and even beat it, enduring sometimes painful treatment. They’re not victims. They’re survivors. We need more medical advances to produce more victories like theirs.

It is for that reason that we stay in this fight. Crucial to the battle is the Susan G. Komen organization, which publishes helpful information, offers moral and practical support and raises money for research.

The battle continues. It includes the patients on the front lines, their doctors and nurses, and researchers in the labs. It includes the friends and family members who live with fear and uncertainty, offering what support they can. It includes organizations like Cancer Services, a local agency that provides practical support for cancer patients and their families, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health, as well as programs offered by Novant Health.

We can do more in this fight, during this month and year ‘round. Consider volunteering your time or donating if you aren’t doing so already. The war against breast cancer has enjoyed some wins, but many more are needed.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/


Oct. 15

StarNews of Wilmington on a shortage of mental health providers:

There is a national shortage of mental health professionals, and it’s being felt locally.

With the Wilmington area particularly hard-hit by the opioid crisis, we’re seeing mental health professionals turn away people who literally are begging for help.

“Every time I say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t take a new patient,’ I feel guilty,” said Dr. Tom Boeker, a local psychiatrist. “They’re desperate.”

He recounted to reporter Cammie Bellamy how he arrived at his office and found a drug addict crying, frantic for help.

Southeastern North Carolina is seeing a shortage of all mental health providers. But the shortfall is particularly acute among psychiatrists, mental health providers who are medical doctors and can prescribe medicine.

Nationwide, the number of psychiatrists fell 10 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, even with the opioid crisis unfolding and suicide rates on the rise.

One challenge is getting medical students to choose psychiatry, a field that pays less than other medical specialties - it’s near the bottom - while often taking an emotional toll on its practitioners.

Providers such as Physicians Alliance for Mental Health and Coastal Horizons that receive public funding and take Medicaid patients must be on edge in these budget-cutting days, hoping the government will come through with the resources they need to serve patients.

Allowing mental health problems to go untreated is an individual tragedy, but it’s also a risk for the larger population.

Letting jails and emergency rooms become the default treatment centers is a costly and unsatisfactory approach. Letting folks with addictions and unresolved issues roam the streets without help or prescribed medication puts us all at risk. It’s not only compassionate to help the mentally ill, it’s safer for everybody.

Some very serious mental health problems can be successfully managed with medications, but that requires ongoing medical oversight.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which has been reaching out into the community in new ways and also bringing specialty practitioners to the area, should help find solutions at the medical level.

With its new doctoral program in clinical psychology, UNCW should play an active role in meeting this critical need. There are other important resources at UNCW - the School of Social Work trains clinical counselors, and the School of Nursing trains nurse practitioners. These are excellent resources that need to be leveraged toward filling the provider gap.

Next time you encounter someone working in the mental health field, thank them. It’s difficult, important work - and too often misunderstood and thankless.

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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