Basic Math

nc.gifWhen the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2008, the idea was to cover as many previously uninsured folks as possible. What was the rational for this? Aside from it just being the right thing to do, research shows a strong connection between mortality rates and insurance status, and President Obama had the wild idea that less dead people was probably good thing.

Overall, the uninsured are more likely to have poor health and higher mortality rates than those with insurance. People without insurance are less likely to receive preventive services and more likely to delay or go without necessary doctors’ visits, prescription medicines, and other treatments that reduce unnecessary morbidity and premature death. As a result, this group has poorer health outcomes, a lower quality of life, and more premature deaths. The uninsured are also at greater risk of death following a trauma, heart attack, or stroke.

But at least 13 states, including North Carolina, have indicated they will not expand Medicaid and several more are on the fence, posing a substantial threat to the ACA’s expansion of insurance coverage for the most economically vulnerable Americans.

How many people would be affected according the study in North Carolina? An estimated 1,098 people will die a premature death this year as a result of no expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.

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The big 0-3

birthday.jpgTomorrow marks the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a landmark law that will extend health benefits to more than 30 million people who are now uninsured. Since the law survived a Supreme Court review and the 2012 election, we now know the law is here to stay. Affordable, quality health care will be woven into the fabric of American society, making us stronger and healthier as a nation.

Already, we’ve seen people with pre-existing conditions enabled, for the first time, to buy affordable insurance. Children with health problems can no longer be turned down for coverage. Small businesses have access to tax credits to get health insurance for their employees. Women have access to preventive care without co-pays, seniors are paying less for prescription medicines and health insurers now must adhere to strict guidelines on the share of your premium dollar that must be used on medical care rather than overhead, salaries and marketing costs.

Starting in October, individuals and small business owners will be able to buy health private insurance in state-based marketplaces or enroll in expanded Medicaid programs. Both will increase access to no-cost preventive care millions.

In 2014, with law in full effect, annual limits on insurance coverage will be eliminated, exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions will be outlawed and tax credits for families and small business will be expanded.  

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Sequestration's Impact On America's Poor

photo.jpgWe are now 11 days into the sequester cuts that went into effect on March 1, 2013. As a result, the latest political game in Washington of finger pointing has continued while also debating how serious the cuts really are. In the grand scheme of things the cuts are modest when you look at our $16 trillion in debt as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated.

Despite how modest the cuts may be, they still will have an impact on the lives of people and the poor will disproportionally feel this. Yes, the military will face cuts and the more affluent travelers may face longer lines in our airports but the cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alone will impact the poor more than anyone else. No matter how modest the sequester cuts are in relation to the national debt, they will have a drastic impact on the poorest Americans.

A quick look at the impact the sequester will have on HUD will allow you to see the impact that will be felt by the poor. 125,000 families that include the elderly and disabled could lose their housing assistance vouchers that help cover the cost of rent. Without this assistance, they may struggle to cover the full cost of their rent and be left homeless. Another 100,000 formerly homeless people which includes veterans could be forced to return to the streets due to cuts to HUD's Continuum Care Program which helps these individuals find housing and move to self-sufficiency. These families and individuals do not have resources to fall back on as Sheila Crowly of the National Low Income Housing Coalition stated.

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Welcome to the game show

game-show-2.jpgThe ironic whiplash was pretty severe last week, as a statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled in the Capital Building Rotunda while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in favor of dismantling the Voting Rights Act.

What does that have to do with you? Plenty, since our state lawmakers seem to have taken the cue from their brethren in DC and decided to enact their own version of Taxpayer Jeopardy.

In the oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, the constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County, Alabama is objecting to the landmark civil rights law's requirement that states and local areas with a history of racial discrimination must secure federal "preclearance" before changing their voting rules. The contention is that the Act, specifically Section 5, are an undue burden the states covered, since the racial dynamic has changed so dramatically since the time the law initially went into effect in 1965.

Just hold that thought.

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How MLK Would Tackle Income Inequality Today

MLK.jpgThis week in Washington, D.C., there will be a bipartisan discussion on poverty in America. This discussion is the latest effort of broadcaster Tavis Smiley's quest to bring attention to those living in poverty. Panelists will include former Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Princeton Professor Cornel West and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. The focus will be on Smiley's call to end poverty in 25 years and there can be no discussion on poverty without also mentioning income inequality. I believe it is no coincidence this discussion is happening the same week as the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which leads to some important questions. What were Dr. King's thoughts on income inequality, and how would he tackle them in today's environment.

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