• Point and Counterpoint: Health Care 

    Though Far From Perfect, ACA Is a Good Starting Point

    On a regular basis, the Pilot dedicates space on it’s Opinion page to feature “dueling” commentary from Darlene Dunham, President of the Democratic Women of Moore County, and John Rowerdink, former Chair of the Moore County Republican Party.  The following appeared in the August 16th edition:

    The author, president of the Moore County Democratic Women, lives in Southern Pines.

    By Darlene Dunham, Special to The Pilot

    Before passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), too many people simply went without medical care, declared bankruptcy because of huge medical bills, or utilized expensive emergency rooms for routine health care problems. And not enough younger, healthier Americans purchased insurance to help spread the risk.

    Obamacare solved some of these problems, but not all. There were successes, especially in the early years. Overall, insurance companies were making a profit, emergency room visits were down, and many young adults, up to the age of 26, were able to remain on their parents’ policies.

    And in the state of New York, where the ACA has been fully embraced and managed as it was designed, the uninsured today make up just a tiny fraction of the population, a bit over 5 percent.

    The ACA may well have been a better product if the Republicans had chosen to engage in the crafting of it. But since they declined — and immediately starting attacking it — we’re now faced with a conundrum.

    Americans have clearly demonstrated they want the ACA. And they want their leaders to figure out how to fix it. Yet how do those Congress members, committed to killing a law they have detested for nearly a decade, suddenly find the energy and enthusiasm to help craft a better version?

    And what of those on the other side, who fought so hard to keep the ACA from being repealed? How do they muster interest in working with those they believe do not have the heart or commitment to do the difficult and painstaking work of creating a better ACA?

    First and foremost, Republicans need to figure out how to respectfully work across the aisle with the opposition party. The Democrats did the heavy lifting in giving America the ACA, and they fought hard to keep it. If the Republicans are truly interested in fixing it, they need to come to the table prepared to work with Democrats who are offering concrete solutions.

    As many Democrats warned, Obamacare is not a problem-free answer to this country’s health care issues. Though there are some Dems who believe that if the president would cease threatening to withhold cost-sharing subsidies to insurers and enforce the rules regarding the purchase of insurance or payment of penalties, the law would work just fine.

    Other Democratic leaders think there are parts of the ACA that do need some tinkering. Among their suggestions are higher subsidies and the addition of a “copper” option, beneath bronze in the list of plan choices. This plan would have cheaper premiums and higher deductibles and would be marketed to younger, healthier folks, encouraging them to purchase some form of basic health insurance.

    In addition to the suggestions mentioned above about ways to strengthen and improve the ACA (there are dozens more that have been put forward by Democrats across the country) here are additional steps that I believe our lawmakers should seriously consider:

    — Shore up the insurance markets. About 200 companies left the markets because the plans they offered provided almost no coverage and the ACA forbid the sale of them. Many of the states that had few choices in insurance providers before Obamacare still have few choices.

    — Add a public option to the insurance markets. It would help drive down costs.

    — Tell states to immediately expand Medicaid. This act alone will help stabilize hospitals, particularly rural health centers, which still have to provide care even when there is no avenue for reimbursement.

    — Allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. It is ridiculous that the VA can bargain with drug companies but Medicare cannot.

    While it may be a less-than-perfect vehicle, the ACA has been a much needed starting point in addressing a host of entrenched problems. Check out the Commonwealth Fund’s most recent performance rankings on health care systems worldwide. Of all the wealthy nations, the United States ranks dead last on most measures. It should be manifestly shameful to every American that the United States spends as much money as it does on health care and ranks this low.

    Yet it is still a very useful document if we pay attention to what it is saying. Essentially it reports that we still have a considerable amount of work to do to repair our broken system. But it offers us enough successful models to study so that ultimately — if we create fixes in the existing law, continue and build upon those favorable outcomes now taking place under the ACA, and perhaps borrow from what has worked in other countries (the Netherlands has a successful model similar to Obamacare) — the United States could have a health care system that insures everyone and is second to none.

    The ball is in your court, congressional Republicans. Will you cooperate with the Democrats to build a better ACA and a healthier America?

    (To view this article, and Mr. Rowerdink’s opinion, click here)

  • Total Eclipse

  • Legislative foot-dragging

  • Pipeline Is a Bad Idea

    Commentary from Kim Geddes, as published in ,

    Sunday, July 30, 2017 

    The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a project proposed by Duke Energy and Dominion that would bring fracked shale gas from Pennsylvania through West Virginia and Virginia and terminate in Robeson County, North Carolina.

    The pipeline would be one of the largest in the U.S., spanning 600 miles. According to information obtained from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality website (http://deq.nc.gov/), “The large-diameter pipeline would cross more than 200 miles of North Carolina’s coastal plain, fragmenting North Carolina’s forested wetlands and pristine streams, sometimes using in-stream blasting in important habitats that support many imperiled species, including birds, bats, fish, and crayfish.”

    Oil Change International has documented that pipelines leak greenhouse gases, sometimes slowly, sometimes through blowouts that harm neighbors and property.

    Compressor stations along the route also leak and — by design — constantly release gas in to the air.

    The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has calculated that over the past 20 years, pipelines have resulted in an annual average of 49 serious incidents, 18 fatalities, 73 injuries, and more than $35 million in property damage, and they adversely impact surrounding plants and wildlife.

    The project forces landowners to allow the pipeline to be buried on their property through eminent domain, restricting owners’ use of their property and lowering its value.

    The pipeline could lock North Carolinians into funding a massive fossil fuel infrastructure that could preclude investment in the renewable sector, an investment that would provide many more permanent jobs and cheaper energy sources.

    The N.C. Division of Water Resources invites the public to comment in writing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline application.

    Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. Aug. 19, and may be mailed to 410 Permitting Branch, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617.

    Kim Geddes, Aberdeen

    [Editor’s note: Kim is an “engineer, scientist, access and equity in education advocate, feminist, STEMinist, Christian. Not necessarily in that order.”  And also a Democrat and an activist!]

     

  • Contact Information for Moore County State and National Elected Officials

    U.S. Senator Richard Burr
    Facebook: click here
    Twitter: @SenatorBurr
    Website: click here
    Write: 217 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
    Call: DC 202-224-3154   FAX 202-228-2981
    Call: Wilmington 910-251-1058   FAX 910-251-7975
    Call: Winston Salem 336-631-5125   FAX 336-725-4493
    Call: Asheville 828-350-2437  FAX 828-350-2439
    Call: Rocky Mount 252-977-9522   FAX 252-977-7902
    ________________________________________
    U.S. Senator Thom Tillis
    Facebook: click here
    Twitter: @SenThomTillis
    Website/Email: click here
    Write:  185 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
    Call: DC 202-224-6342 FAX 202-228-2563
    Call: Charlotte 704-509-9087 FAX 704-509-9162
    Call: Raleigh 919-856-4630 FAX 919-856-4053
    ________________________________________
    U.S. Representative Richard Hudson
    Facebook: click here
    Twitter: @RichHudson
    Website/Email: click here
    Write: 429 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
    Call: DC 202-225-3715 FAX: (202) 225-4036
    Call: Concord (704) 786-1612  FAX: (704) 782-1004
    Call: Fayetteville (910) 997-2070 FAX: (910) 817-7202
    ________________________________________

    NC Senator Jerry Tillman
    Facebook: click here
    Twitter: @jerrytillman
    Website/Email: click here
    Write: N.C. Senate, 300 N Salisbury Street, Room 309, Raleigh, NC 27603
    Call: (919) 733-5870
    ________________________________________

    NC Representative Jamie Boles
    Facebook: click here
    Twitter: @RepJamieBoles
    Website/Email: click here 
    Write: N.C. House of Representatives,300 N Salisbury Street, Room 528, Raleigh, NC 27603
    Call: 919-733-5903