NC JUSTICE NEWS, September 14, 2010: Tax Reform + Health Reform + Mental Health Crisis

September 14, 2010 

STATE TAX REFORM: The challenges ahead
State tax reform may not be the sexiest topic, but it’s getting a lot of attention here in North Carolina because, without reform, the state’s government is in trouble—and not just this year, when the economy is down, but for decades if not generations to come. A recent piece on WUNC-FM lays out the challenges nicely—North Carolina’s revenue system is full of loopholes that serve no purpose, taxes some things but not others for no good reason, relies heavily on the most volatile revenue sources, and taxes those with the smallest incomes the most.
The Justice Center’s NC Budget & Tax Center is working with the members of Together NC to find ways to address the need for tax reform in the coming fiscal year. Together NC is a coalition working for responsible fiscal policy that protects vulnerable citizens and invests in the state's future. The groups that make up this coalition represent millions of North Carolinians.
Current and potential Together NC partners are invited to join the Justice Center and coalition members on Wednesday, September 22, for a presentation and discussion on the economy, the state budget, and how we can work together to promote responsible fiscal policy. The event will take place from 2 pm to 4 pm in the NC Association of Educators headquarters in Raleigh.
 
MENTAL HEALTH: NC's shameful warehousing of the mentally ill
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), adults with mental illness have the right to live in the least restrictive setting of their choice with appropriate supports. However, a report from Disability Rights NC finds that thousands of adults with mental illness in North Carolina have nowhere to go. Many live in adult care homes—large institutional settings for elderly individuals and adults with disabilities.
Disability Rights NC’s investigation of adult care homes throughout North Carolina uncovered several disturbing findings:
Adults in their twenties are living together with adults in their seventies.
Many facilities had 100% of residents with serious mental illness but offered no therapeutic or rehabilitative services.
Many adult care home residents were subjected to stark institutional living environments.
 
The State of North Carolina lacks a realistic plan that supports all adults with mental illness living in the community in a truly integrated setting. Disability Rights is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the situation in North Carolina and enforce the integration mandate of the ADA on behalf of North Carolinians with mental illness.
 
HEALTH CARE REFORM: Under attack from multiple sides
Health insurers are using health reform as a scapegoat for rate increases they were going to implement anyway.
Last week, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a strongly worded letter to health insurers warning them not to blame the new health law for premium increases. Sebelius pointed out that a wide variety of experts have estimated that health reform will affect premiums by no more than one or two percent. Sebelius told insurers that later this fall, HHS will issue a regulation requiring state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable insurance rate increases.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, there's an effort to dramatically undermine the health reform law. An amendment to a bill that will help small businesses create jobs—a sensible and worthy goal, right?—would cut $11 billion from preventive health services and would weaken the health law’s mandate that people purchase insurance before they get sick, a change that would drive up health premiums for everyone.
 
It looks like this is going to be the tactic of those who oppose health reform—take important, widely supported bills and add amendments that undermine the reform law. If this amendment passes and is attached to this bill, senators who support health reform will have to make the difficult decision of either supporting a popular bill that undermines health reform or voting against a popular bill knowing their opponents will use that vote against them in future elections. That’s why it’s important that senators hear from their constituents that, yes, we support health reform, and yes, we will support you in your efforts to protect it.
Want some accurate information on health reform? Check out these sources:
CHILD HEALTH OPTIONS: Wake County meeting on September 23
At the Raleigh Community and Safety Club, the NC Health Access Coalition will be talking about options for parents to get their kids covered—through Medicaid, NC Health Choice and new options under the health law. We’ll also hear from a college student who is now guaranteed coverage under his parent’s plan because of the new health law. Come and tell your story or ask questions about the health reform law.

 

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