The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Follies 5

The underplayed amazing health care news

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the media coverage but Thursday was an amazing day for health care in North Carolina.

Data released by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services shows that 357,000 people in the state signed up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act  earlier this year.  The enrollment goal set for North Carolina was 200,000, which seemed ambitious given the problems with the rollout of the ACA website.

Another 74,000 people in the state signed up for Medicaid.

National reports have found that the vast majority of people who signed up for coverage were previously uninsured, which was one of the points of health care reform after all, to reduce the number of people without insurance.

Assuming that was also true in North Carolina, that means that roughly 430,000 uninsured people in the state now have coverage thanks to the health care law that many politicians are still fighting to repeal.

That’s about one third of the people without health insurance in the state, a remarkable achievement on its own and even more amazing when you consider that state lawmakers refused to make enrollment easier by setting up a state health exchange and turned down money from the federal government to facilitate the enrollment process.

The numbers could have been dramatically higher of course, if legislative leaders and Governor Pat McCrory had expanded Medicaid under the ACA. That would have provided coverage for 500,000 low income adults who currently are uninsured.

But cutting the number of people without health coverage by a third is an astounding accomplishment that will directly affect the lives of 400,000 people and their families. It’s an amazing story that deserves far more coverage than it is getting.

It’s is also worth noting who the people are who signed up for Medicaid coverage during the ACA enrollment period. They are people who already qualify for Medicaid but simply had not applied for the program most likely because they didn’t realize they were eligible.

And because they qualify under existing criteria, that means that most of them are seniors, people with a disability, children, and pregnant women—the most vulnerable people in the state.

Many politicians and right-wing pundits have criticized the increased Medicaid enrollment caused by the ACA, but it is actually something to celebrate. These are people who need help and qualify for it under criteria that federal and state officials have approved.  They need and deserve the care and now they can get it.

More bad poll news for McCrory

Poll results are everywhere these days with Tuesday’s primary election just around the corner, but this week also brought some interesting snapshots of public opinion about issues and people not on the ballot next week.

The latest Elon University Poll shows that Governor Pat McCrory’s approval ratings remain underwater with 35 percent of voters approving of the job he is doing and 45 percent disapproving.

President Obama’s approval rating among North Carolina voters is higher than McCrory’s but still underwater too, with 41 percent of voters happy with the way he doing his job and 49 percent disapproving.

McCrory supporters have to be concerned about those numbers.  Conservative political groups have spent millions of dollars in the last few months attacking President Obama and “Obamacare” in their efforts to defeat Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in November.

But despite the barrage of negative publicity, Obama’s approval rating is better than McCrory’s.  And that if that’s not enough to concern McCrory and his team, his approval rating is roughly the same as Senator Hagan who has been the target of all the negative ads.  Almost 35 percent approve of the job Hagan is doing, while 47 percent disapprove.

The poll also finds that only 27 percent of voters approve of the General Assembly while 49 percent disapprove. No wonder House Speaker Thom Tillis doesn’t talk much in his Senate commercials about being in charge of the state House.

Voters reject the hard right agenda

The other interesting poll comes from the Washington Post and ABC News. It finds that while voters are unhappy with President Obama and the direction of country, they actually trust Democrats more than Republicans on issues like health care, the minimum wage, immigration and even the catch all “main problems facing the country.”

The poll is a mixed bag at best for Democrats in this year’s midterm elections but it does show that people don’t support the radical Tea Party agenda.

That is good news for the medium and long term, regardless of what happens at the polls this year.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.