NC JUSTICE NEWS: "American Winter" TONIGHT + Pregnant Women & Medicaid + Unemployment Cliff

June 4, 2013

"AMERICAN WINTER": Tonight's screening highlights poverty, safety net

The NC Justice Center and Durham People's Alliance will host a screening of the documentary film "American Winter" tonight, Tuesday, June 4, in order to raise awareness of poverty, economic security, and the importance of the safety net in North Carolina.

American Winter follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Filmed over the course of the winter months of 2011-12, the film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation's economy as it is playing out in millions of American families, and reveals the human consequences of cuts to social services, the decline of the middle class, and the fracturing of the American Dream. Woven into the film are interviews with economic experts, policy analysts, and religious leaders, as well as interviews with social workers on the frontlines of the economic fallout.

The event will be held at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Come early at 6:00 p.m., grab food from Kokyu, the International BBQ inspired food truck, and visit our host organizations’ tables. The film begins at 7:00, followed by a brief panel discussion with Gene Nichol, Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Click here for more information and to register for the event.

WOMEN AND MEDICAID: New budget would block coverage for pregnant women

As if having Medicaid expansion blocked in North Carolina wasn't bad enough, now it seems that the budget passed by the North Carolina Senate includes a special provision that will change the state’s Medicaid eligibility requirements for pregnant women.

Starting next year, pregnant women earning more than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — about $15,282 for a single person — will no longer qualify for Medicaid. This is a dramatic change from the current level of 185 percent, which amounts to approximately $21,256, and will impact thousands of women.

The budget attempts to soften the blow by offering small vouchers to a very narrow group of women who are removed from Medicaid to help them purchase private insurance coverage. Yet these pregnant women must meet strict eligibility rules in order to get coverage for her entire pregnancy.

First of all, the woman must be uninsured. Under the Affordable Care Act, this may exclude women who have "Minimum Essential Coverage," which may not be required to cover pregnancy-related services. A woman will not be able to get a voucher under the Senate provision if her plan qualifies as Minimum Essential Coverage. She will also not qualify if her spouse has an offer of affordable self-only coverage, which excludes most dependents of full-time state employees from the voucher program. Lastly, if a woman learns that she is pregnant outside of open enrollment she will not qualify for federal subsidies to purchase insurance coverage, which means she is also excluded from the state voucher program.

Even if a low-income pregnant woman manages to qualify for federal subsidies and a state voucher to purchase insurance she will still face large out-of-pocket costs after the birth of her child. These problems and questions should give lawmakers great pause before making such a drastic change to state policy.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: The truth about North Carolina's Medicaid program

NC Policy Watch and the North Carolina Justice Center's Health Access Coalition are proud to announce a very special and timely Crucial Conversation luncheon on the truth about North Carolina's Medicaid program.

Hardly a day goes by of late in which some politician doesn’t allege that Medicaid, North Carolina’s health care program for poor people, is “broken.” In speech after speech, conservative state leaders repeat the same mantra: To rein in “out-of-control” spending, Medicaid must be fundamentally altered so that it is a program based on “choice,” “efficiency” and “competition.” Yet the truth of the matter is that despite its many imperfections, North Carolina Medicaid remains a model for the nation.

The event will feature one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on health care policy: Ron Pollack, Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, Families USA. Families USA’s numerous reports and analyses are frequently cited at Congressional hearings, in state legislatures, by the media and by consumer organizations that Families USA works with all across the country.

Join us as Pollack uses his formidable experience in this critical field to debunk the Medicaid mythology and explain how all of us can be a part of the effort to set the record straight. The event will be held on Tuesday, June 11, at noon at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets. Click here to register

UNEMPLOYMENT CLIFF: Lawmakers need to reverse HB 4 before July 1

As President Obama readies to visit North Carolina as part of his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour,” North Carolina Justice Center and AFL-CIO NC are asking legislators to take action on behalf of the more than 70,000 out of work North Carolinians who are at risk of being pushed over the unemployment cliff on July 1.

House Bill 4, which cut North Carolina’s unemployment benefits beginning on July 1, 2013, left tremendous damage in its wake — damage at a time when the state has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country, and there are three workers for every available job. After July 1, North Carolina will become the only state in the U.S. to lose the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program (EUC), which is 100 percent funded and currently provides unemployment benefits to over 70,000 out of work North Carolinians who have exhausted their state benefits. These are individuals who are looking for work and will be abruptly cut off from benefits that they rely on to pay for housing and feed their families.

"This will almost certainly undermine any ongoing economic recovery efforts in North Carolina with hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits being lost," the letter to NC lawmakers reads. Yet such a catastrophe could be averted by delaying the state benefit cuts laid out in HB 4 until January 2014. If lawmakers fail to reverse HB 4, the loss of federal benefits through the end of the year will affect thousands of individuals and families across the state, not to mention local businesses and retailers who need consumers to demand their goods and services.

“The decision to shut down federal EUC in North Carolina is without precedent nationally — both as a self-inflicted wound to the state’s economy and as an act of government callousness,” the letter reads.

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