North Carolina’s poor are under attack. In case you missed it, in the last few weeks our Republican-led state legislature is determined to reduce the state’s debt by sacrificing the poor.
The legislature passed legislation to cut benefits to the unemployed; declined Medicaid expansion that would have provided health insurance to low income North Carolinians mostly via federal funds; and rejected a state-run health exchange.
The decision to decline Medicaid expansion is wrong.
According to an article by Duke University political science professor Michael Allen Gillespie Under the Affordable Care Act, the expansion would cover an additional 600,000 North Carolinians who have no insurance under the Medicaid program, according to the N.C. Institute of Medicine. The state currently pays 35 percent of the cost of Medicaid for its existing patients while the federal government pays the other 65 percent.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of the expansion for the first three years and a decreasing percentage each year after.
The expansion will benefit the state: an influx of $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion a year, producing 18,000 to 25,000 new jobs and $497 million in additional tax revenue by 2021, according to the N.C. Institute of Medicine. This would dramatically affect the state’s economy, according to Gillespie’s article.
As Gillespie says declining the coverage will only hurt the residents. So will the new unemployment law.
It punishes people who’ve paid their fair share into the system, and are at their most vulnerable. The law cuts maximum weekly benefits to $350 from $535 and caps benefits at 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate, instead of the current 26 weeks.
The state has more than 400,000 jobless people. Slashing their benefits won’t help the state. It will only force them to become more dependent on state services. About 170,000 long-term unemployed workers in North Carolina will lose out on extra federal funds under the new law, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A Republican-led legislature obsessed with reducing the budget so far looks like a legislature that cares more about the numbers than the people it serves.