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State Government
GOP Senators Introduce Healthcare Expansion Act PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 10:26
Raleigh, N.C. – Senators Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) today announced the Health Care Expansion Act of 2019, which would fund personal care services and in-home assistance for 2,000 disabled North Carolinians while also expanding access to health care for all citizens across the state. 
 
The bill would provide $41 million over the next two years to fund 2,000 slots on the state's Intellectual/Development Disability (IDD) Medicaid program waitlist. North Carolina currently serves more than 12,000 individuals with an array of developmental disabilities on the IDD Medicaid program, providing them with care that allows for a better quality of life within the comfort of their own home. Reducing this waitlist is a priority for legislative Republicans and they have funded slots a number of times before, including 400 last year.. Funding these slots would change the lives of thousands of families across North Carolina who desperately need these services.
 
While Democrats have focused their efforts on expanding socialized medicine via Obamacare Medicaid expansion, Republicans believe that care for people with severe disabilities should be prioritized over taxpayer funding for able-bodied adults.
 
"The backlog of people with disabilities who cannot care for themselves is a serious issue, and funding these slots has been and will continue to be a priority for us," said Krawiec. "Until all of the people on the IDD waitlist are taken care of, we shouldn't even consider funding health care for able-bodied adults." 
 
A number of other provisions in the bill focus on expanding access to health care starting with repealing all Certificate of Need (CON) requirements from North Carolina. Currently, providers looking to open a new facility or expand critical services are forced to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops to obtain a CON from the state. These requirements apply to more than 28 different types of facilities and treatments in North Carolina including ambulatory surgical centers, dialysis treatments and MRI scanners.
 
The original intention of CON laws was to lower health care costs, improve quality of care and preserve rural health care infrastructure. However, in practice CON laws put government control ahead of patients and doctors, handcuff health providers from offering care in their communities, and increase health care costs by stifling competition. While CON laws were originally mandated by the federal government, that mandate was repealed more than 30 years ago in 1987 because the federal government recognized the laws did not effectively restrain costs. While fifteen other states have scrapped their CON laws, most of North Carolina's remain in place.
 
"Certificate of Need laws are an outdated concept that have shown time and time again that they don't succeed in accomplishing any of their originally intended goals," said Bishop. "Eliminating these unnecessary regulations will increase provider competition which will enhance patient choice, lower costs and improve access to critical health services for North Carolinians." 
 
The Health Care Expansion Act of 2019 also expands access to mental health care services. The bill would enter North Carolina into the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT). This is a cooperative agreement between a number of states that allows licensed psychologists to provide telepsychology and temporary in-person psychology services across state lines without having to become licensed in additional states. This will expand access to care particularly in areas that are currently under served or geographically isolated like North Carolina's rural communities.
 
Additionally, the bill will permit licensed Marriage and Family Therapists(LMFTs) to conduct first evaluations for involuntary commitment in North Carolina. Due to a shortage of psychiatrists and PHD psychologists in the state, the list of mental health professionals permitted to conduct first evaluations has expanded since 2011, but there are still not enough providers. LMFTs are trained to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, and authorizing them to conduct first evaluations will expand access to critical mental health care services throughout the state.
 
 
Senator Proposes Compromise For Wind Farms Near Military Training Areas PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 10:21
Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) today introduced compromise legislation, Senate Bill 377, based on the joint AECOM-N.C. Commerce Department study of the risks associated with wind mills in zones used by the Department of Defense for training exercises. The study produced a statewide map identifying areas in which tall structures pose a "high risk [of] degrading safety and the military’s ability to perform aviation training."
 
In a joint statement, Major General Robert Dickerson (RET) and Lieutenant General Gary McKissock (RET) said, “The comprehensive mapping effort, if used as a template, should provide the state compatible growth around military installations that doesn’t interfere with ranges and military installation missions. This proposal brings clarity to an issue that may possibly weigh against North Carolina's military installations in future BRAC evaluations.” 
 
Major General Dickerson served as Base Commanding General of Camp Lejeune. Lieutenant General McKissock served as Commanding General of Marine Corps Logistics Bases and Commanding General Marine Corps Material Command.
 
In 2017, the General Assembly enacted an 18-month moratorium on wind energy projects to allow time to better understand the risks such projects pose to military personnel and equipment during training exercises. AECOM, a multinational engineering firm, conducted a study together with the N.C. Department of Commerce to determine if and to what extent wind mills posed risks. Military installations across the state provided AECOM and the Commerce Department data on training routes and operations. That coordinated effort produced a map detailing zones of high risk, medium risk, and low risk posed to military operations by tall structures.
 
Senator Brown’s legislation prohibits wind mills in only the map’s high risk zones.
 
“First of all, we shouldn’t take any action that jeopardizes the United States military’s ability to safely train the brave men and women who serve our country,” Senator Brown said. “Beyond that, though, the military is the lifeblood of eastern North Carolina’s economy. It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. Constructing obstacles that degrade the military’s ability to conduct training exercises puts our military bases at risk of closure during the next BRAC proceeding.” 
 
According to the North Carolina Military Business Center, the Department of Defense is the second-largest sector of the state’s economy, accounting for 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The N.C. Department of Commerce reported in 2015 that the military supported 10 percent of North Carolina’s total employment.
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Senator Brown added, “This evidence-based legislation is a fair and reasonable middle ground that allows for responsible wind energy development while ensuring the United States military can continue operating safely in North Carolina.” 
 
Budget And Tax Center Says Medicaid Expansion Is A Good Financial Move PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 10:11

 

Federal dollars and new revenue, combined with budget savings, create a responsible financing model through Medicaid Expansion, according to a new analysis. 
 
Medicaid expansion will not only provide much needed access to health insurance for at least half a million North Carolinians, but it is likely to also generate savings for the state budget, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.  
 
"Medicaid expansion offers North Carolina a more direct and cost-effective way to fund health care services," said Suzy Khachaturyan, Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst and author of the report. "Ultimately, increasing the number of North Carolinians with health insurance -- and the benefits of affordable, consistent access to care -- will boost the well-being of families and communities, and that is good for all of us." 
 
Highlights from the report:  
 
Expanding Medicaid will produce significant savings to North Carolina's budget. Medicaid expansion can produce $100 million of savings to North Carolina's budget in the first two years it is in effect. These initial fiscal savings on health care costs are what can be considered first order effects and don't capture the full cost savings that would come from a healthier population with greater financial security.   
 
Medicaid expansion can maximize federal funding available to North Carolina. Currently, the federal government pays for 67 percent of North Carolina's Medicaid costs. Under the terms of the ACA, the federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost of providing health care services under expansion.   
 
The state share of the costs would be funded through a combination of hospital assessments and taxes levied on Prepaid Health Plans (PHPs). The Governor's budget proposes collecting provider fees in order to partially finance the cost of Medicaid expansion. The dollars would generate $215 million in FY 2020 and $356 million in FY 2021. Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation that would extend the existing 1.9 percent tax on insurance companies to apply to the capitation payments, also called premiums, issued to PHPs, generating $78.2 billion over the next two years due to expansion. 
 
Medicaid expansion has produced budget savings in states across the country. Numerous national studies of Medicaid expansion in states have documented state budget savings in a broad array of funding areas as well as no offsetting reductions in other areas of the budget—like education or transportation—so that the state match could be met.  Notably, a 50-state analysis of Medicaid spending found that there was not a statistically significant increase in state Medicaid spending in states that have expanded.   
 
"The broad benefits of Medicaid Expansion for our state will not only support the well-being of all of us, but it will also generate savings in the state's budget over time," said Khachaturyan. 
 
 
Bill Would Invest $150 Million To Expand Rural High Speed Internet PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 10:08
Raleigh, N.C. – North Carolina House Appropriations Chairman Dean Arp (R-Union) yesterday introduced a bill that would dedicate $150 million over the next decade to expand rural access to high-speed internet.
 
House Bill 398, the Growing GREAT bill, is a follow up to the 2017 Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) legislation, which appropriated $10 million for the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Office for the initial year of the grant program. In addition to providing $15 million annually for the next ten years, the Growing GREAT bill makes technical changes to refine the formula used to award grants.
 
H.B. 398 is also a companion to two other bills filed by Arp on Tuesday: the School Construction and Broadband Investment Act, which calls for funding to come from State Capital and Infrastructure Fund, and the Electric Co-Op Rural Broadband Services bill, which would remove restrictions on state electrical cooperatives seeking to offer high-speed internet. 
 
“The need to expand rural broadband access in North Carolina is urgent,” said Arp. “The time for talking about it is over. Without it, these areas will be left behind in terms of jobs, education and quality of life.” 
 
Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Franklin, Nash) also signed on as primary sponsors.
 
“This is a continuation of last session’s initiative to speed up the deployment of high-speed internet access to rural areas of the state,” Szoka said. “We can’t rest until all citizens of the state, no matter where they live, have the opportunities that high-speed access brings to them.”
 
Barnes emphasized that broadband is vital to both education and the economy.
 
“Broadband access directly impacts our students’ education, the livelihoods of business owners, and our economy,” said Barnes. “With this bill, I am doubling-down on my commitment to enable job growth and economic prosperity, particularly in our rural communities.
 
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