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Category Archive for ‘News of General Interest’

Get Private Health Insurance Out of Medicareby Andrew Whiteman

Get Private Health Insurance Out of Medicare.

Professors Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan of Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy have written in a New York Times op-ed that the involvement of private health insurers in providing Medicare benefits has greatly increased the complexity of the program and, as a result, the burden on consumers. Herd and Moynihan wrote:

Private insurers make Medicare extraordinarily confusing, increasing costs for beneficiaries and their own profits. When enrolling in Medicare, and then every subsequent year, beneficiaries are required to make a series of decisions regarding their coverage. Though there is a base benefit package, there are also many and varied options, ranging from which prescription drugs are covered to the amount of premiums, co-payments and deductibles. The plans also change every year.

Making the right choice means finding a match between your fluctuating health needs and the changing plans. It is as complicated as it sounds. Getting the best coverage for the lowest cost often requires switching plans nearly every year but very few people do this, leaving them with higher costs and less effective coverage. A study from the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, found that only 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in 2009 chose the cheapest plan that will cover their prescription drug needs.

Professors Herd and Moynihan’s main point is that a discussion of the administrative burden of our current health care system should be part of the public debate.

Click here for the Herd/Moynihan New York Times op-ed.

© Andrew Whiteman 2019

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You Have the Right to Vote – in a Gerrymandered Districtby Andrew Whiteman

The Supreme Court today reversed lower court decisions from North Carolina and Maryland that held partisan gerrymandering of congressional election districts is unconstitutional. The New York Times report is here. Better yet, read the Court’s opinion here.

This decision is thoroughly depressing. The message is that the political hacks in control of state legislatures may arrange the voting districts to ensure that they remain in power. This is a sad day for democracy. The Supreme Court completely abdicated its constitutional oversight responsibility. What are we left with? The right to vote in a rigged election. Why bother?

This decision affects only challenges to politically-gerrymandered voting districts brought under the United States Constitution. The Court stated that the federal courts may continue to consider challenges based on inequality of population among voting districts – on equal protection grounds – and based on claims of racial gerrymandering – also on equal protection grounds. Chief Justice Roberts’ explanation as to why the federal courts are fully capable of remedying racial gerrymandering but not partisan gerrymandering is unconvincing:

Unlike partisan gerrymandering claims, a racial gerrymandering claim does not ask for a fair share of political power and influence, with all the justiciability conundrums that entails. It asks instead for the elimination of a racial classification. A partisan gerrymandering claim cannot ask for the elimination of partisanship.

With all due respect, the plaintiffs did not ask for the elimination of partisanship but rather sought the elimination of partisanship in the drawing of Congressional districts. If the courts are able to redraw districts to remedy racial gerrymandering, they should be able to remedy partisan gerrymandering. Justice Kagan’s dissent is compelling.

The Court’s decision does not affect challenges to the drawing of state legislative voting district on state statutory and constitutional grounds. Justice Roberts wrote that “Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.”

In North Carolina, the non-profit Common Cause filed suit on November 13, 2018 in Wake County Superior Court to challenge the voting districts for the North Carolina legislature on state constitutional grounds. The pleadings in Common Cause v. Lewis may be found here. The case is scheduled to go to trial on July 15, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support North Carolina Legislation to Close the Medicaid Coverage Gapby Andrew Whiteman

Support North Carolina legislation to close the Medicaid gap.

Yesterday, on the first day of the 2019 session, North Carolina legislators introduced Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 5, which would raise the eligibility ceiling for citizens to qualify for Medicaid. The Bills would provide Medicaid coverage to those who have modified adjusted gross income that is at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, are age 19 or older and under age 65, are not eligible for or enrolled in Medicare Parts A or B, and are not otherwise entitled to Medicaid.

Why is this important?

The North Carolina General Assembly declined to expand Medicaid for the last six years, thereby rejecting free federal dollars that would cover 90% of the cost of the expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion was supposed to fill the coverage gap. According to a North Carolina Justice Center paper, an estimated 300,000 North Carolinians are currently in the so-called coverage gap. They make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to receive financial assistance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Most folks in the coverage gap can be described as the “working poor” and include low-paid employees in the construction, fast food, and retail sectors.

Disabled individuals may also fall in the coverage gap. I have seen this happen many times. Workers who become disabled due to accident or illness usually lose their employer-sponsored health care. Having no income, or limited income provided by disability benefits, the disabled often cannot afford the cost of continued coverage under COBRA. Approval for Social Security disability often takes years, and Medicare eligibility is delayed for 24 months after the effective day of approval. During the waiting period, the disabled often fall in the coverage gap between the current Medicaid eligibility ceiling and the Affordable Care Act subsidy floor. The lack of affordable health coverage adversely affects workers’ ability to afford treatment and impedes their ability to recover and return to the workforce. To make matters worse, the lack of affordable health care makes it more difficult to prove disability to the Social Security Administration or private disability insurers.

You can make a difference!

Let the senators and representatives who introduced this legislation know that you support their efforts. More importantly, let your senator or representative know that you care about this important issue. A list of North Carolina legislators and their contact information may be found here.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Caseby Andrew Whiteman

The United States Supreme Court will again take up unresolved constitutional questions about partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina and Maryland. The Court agreed to consider rulings from two lower court cases that found that congressional maps in those states violated the rights of voters.

Partisan gerrymandering is an abomination. Hopefully, the Court will uphold the two decisions, both from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more information, see The Washington Post’s article.

 

 

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