June / July 2019
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- Legislative Session Winding Down: On July 10, a resolution (S.J.R. 688) was filed in the NC Senate to temporarily adjourn the General Assembly's long session on Monday, July 22, and to resume the session on August 27. House Rules Committee Chair, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) has said that although there is not a House adjournment resolution filed yet, he thinks the House is “pretty close” in agreement with the Senate adjournment resolution. If legislators and Gov. Cooper can't reach a compromise on the state budget this week, this resolution would allow them a month to continue negotiations.
- Medicaid Expansion: A Republican compromise to Medicaid expansion (HB 655) was approved by the House Health Committee on July 9 with bipartisan support by a vote of 25-6. The compromise bill called "NC Health Care for Working Families," would cover persons 19 to 64 years of age with modified adjusted income less than 133% of the federal poverty level. It includes work requirements and under the proposal participants would pay 2% of their annual household income in monthly premiums. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, who is the chief bill sponsor, calls it an alternative option that "might fit North Carolina's culture." Lambeth said it would serve 300,000 North Carolinians who currently have no health insurance, and up to 500,000 total if everyone eligible uses it. Lambeth also noted that the benefit structure is tied to wellness and preventative care with patients being assigned a primary care provider. The work requirement is a key difference between this proposal and Gov. Cooper's Medicaid expansion. The bill has been placed on the House calendar for a vote several times, but House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, says that he will bring the bill up for a vote on the House floor only after there is a commitment to pass the budget. Medicaid expansion, or closing the coverage gap, is a priority issues for the Coalition on Aging this legislative session. (Travis Fain, WRAL NEWS, 7/09/19)
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- Hurricane Recovery Money: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded slightly more than $336 million to North Carolina in response to damage caused by Hurricane Florence last fall. Gov. Roy Cooper says that the funding announced on May 14 falls short of the state's needs, and he is calling for Congress to pass additional disaster relief legislation. Cooper says in a news release that "far more is needed to help North Carolinians rebuild their lives and communities. The governor's office announced on May 13 that eight communities that were hard hit by Florence will get $2.7 million from the 2019 state Rural Housing Recovery Fund to help address affordable housing shortages. (Amanda Morris, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 5/14/19)
- Wake Redistricting: The House Redistricting Committee met May 16 to begin the court-ordered process of redrawing four Wake County House districts. The legislature faces a July 1 deadline to approve new districts after the court sided last year with plaintiffs who argued that they violated a constitutional ban on mid-decade redistricting in an effort to give Republicans a boost as other districts were redrawn to address unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Legislators did not appeal the ruling. (Colin Campbell, THE INSIDER, 5/14/19)
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- Advocacy by Friends of Residents in Long Term Care: On April 3 Friends of Residents in Long Term Care held an Advocacy Day at the General Assembly and over 80 people from around the state came to Raleigh to speak with their elected officials about the need to increase the personal needs allowance for adult care home and nursing home residents who are eligible for Medicaid and the need for additional support to hire more long term care ombudsmen. Click here to hear stories about these needs from some of those in attendance.
- AARP NC Caregeiver Survey: A new survey of North Carolina registered voters ages 40 plus finds that the vast majority of respondents (83.5%) of current caregivers said that they will provide future caregiving or assistance on an unpaid basis to an adult loved one. It also found that over 95 percent think it is important to have services available in their communities to help older adults live independently. The survey of 800 registered voters conducted by AARP in February and March found that current working caregivers are feeling stressed (59.8%), with the primary cause of their unease being balancing work and family (66.1 %). AARP North Carolina President Dr. Catherine Sevier explains, “More than half (56 %) of current and former caregivers are taking care of parents, meaning that many have to balance the demands of work, their own children and other needs. That is why there is such strong support for simple measures introduced in the NC General Assembly that will make their labor of love less stressful and demanding.” Other than balancing work and family, the survey found that the other major sources of stress for current caregivers are getting enough rest (58%), finding time to exercise (51%) and difficulty maintaining a healthy diet (40%). A big challenge for most caregivers, is being able to provide care to loved ones so that they can keep living independently in their own homes (91%). Find out more by reading the entire April News Edition.
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- President's Budget Request Cuts Programs for Seniors: The President's budget request was released March 11, and it proposes significant cuts to senior programs. Similar to last year, the FY20 budget request proposes eliminating Falls Prevention and CDSME funding at the Administration for Community Living. It also eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) would not be eliminated, but would be cut by $13 million—27%. Additionally, over 10 years, Medicare would be cut by an estimated $818 billion, Medicaid by over $1.5 trillion, and SNAP by $220 billion. Members of Congress have declared the proposal "dead on arrival," and aging advocacy groups will strongly oppose these major cuts to programs which older adults rely on. See a comparison of funding levels for FY18, FY19, and FY20 (proposed). (NCOA Week, 3/12/19)
- Retiree State Health Plan Ruling: An appeals court ruled on March 5 that a former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice and other retired state government workers and teachers aren't exempted from paying health insurance premiums because they had a deal with the state to keep their benefits unchanged. The state Court of Appeals said retirees don't have a contract preventing them from being forced to pay part of their health insurance costs under a law passed in 2011. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that there is no contractual obligation limiting the State Health Plan covering more than 700,000 employees, retirees and their dependents. "Retired state employees are promised nothing more than equal access to health care benefits on an equal basis with active state employees," Judge John Tyson wrote in the ruling for himself and Judges Wanda Bryant and Robert Hunter. Retirees, including former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, sued in 2012 after the legislature directed the state employee health insurance plan to mandate that they make monthly contributions to receive what had been standard insurance coverage. The retirees claimed the state had agreed to a non-amendable contract that entitled them to premium-free health benefits for the rest of their lives under a health care plan in which the former workers paid 20 percent of their co-insurance. Retirees still have access to premium-free options in a 70/30 plan and, if qualified, to a Medicare Advantage plan. Active state employees have no premium-free health care options, the judges said. The appeals court reversed a 2017 decision by Gaston County Superior Court Judge Edwin Wilson that retirees had a contractual right to receive the standard coverage without a premium. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, whose office includes the State Health Plan, estimated in 2017 that with more than 220,000 people covered by the lawsuit, Wilson's decision could cost state taxpayers more than $100 million, plus much more to cover the higher cost for retiree coverage in the future. (Emery P. Dalesio, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/05/19)
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