New Numbers Show NC Losing Insurance, Patience With Bush

A new survey shows that the burden of paying for healthcare in North Carolina increasingly falls on individuals, not employers. That means that a lot more North Carolinians go through their days just hoping that they and their families don't get sick.

The report, Prognosis Worsens for Workers' Health Care, published by the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, found that the proportion of North Carolinians with job-based health insurance fell by 6.7 percent between 2000 and 2004.

In raw numbers, it means 559,000 fewer North Carolinians get health insurance in 2004 through their employer or their spouse's employer than in 2000.

"This dramatic decline in job-based health insurance has contributed directly to the growth in the state's Medicaid caseload and the surge in the ranks of the uninsured," says Adam Searing, director of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition. "Clearly we have a health-care crisis, not a Medicaid crisis."

Study: More North Carolina workers lack health insurance - 2005-10-25

Then there's a new poll from Elon College—in fair Elon, NC. The headline is that this President's overall approval rating in North Carolina is only 41%—down from 52% in March. It's also interesting to note that this disaffection extends to members of the military, as well.

The poll, which surveyed 539 adults Oct. 24-27 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent, also surveyed citizen opinion on Bush’s handling of the economy and the Iraq war. Thirty-seven percent approved or strongly approved of Bush’s handling of the economy, down from 42 percent in a September 2004 Elon Poll but about the same as 36 percent in April 2005.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents approved or strongly approved of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, down from 45 percent in a March 2005 Elon Poll. Fifty-seven percent disapproved or strongly disapproved of Bush’s handling of the Iraqi war, up from 43 percent in March 2005.

. . . .

The poll also measured Bush’s support among current or former members of the military. Fifty-six percent of those who had a military affiliation disapproved or strongly disapproved of the president’s handling of the war in Iraq, while 41 percent approved or strongly approved. Twenty-nine percent of those with a military affiliation said the war in Iraq is not worth fighting, the same percentage as those with no military affiliation. Nineteen percent of those affiliated with the military said the war was worth fighting, compared with 14 percent among those without a military affiliation.

E-net! Elon's news and information site

There are a lot more numbers and charts on the other end of that link. I try not to be a post hoc ergo propter hoc kind of guy, but it's hard for me to imagine that these numbers are entirely unrelated. We deserve better than "you're on your own" from our government when it comes to health insurance and social security.

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Why did Principi Resign?

Don't cross the GOP on VA fundingLarry Scott, July 15, 2005When VASecretary Anthony J. Principi resigned last year it took everyone in the veteran community by surprise. Principi had all the qualifications: he is a staunch Republican, has a background in healthcare, and has the incredible ability to always say “yes” to the Bush Administration.
What happened? Principi stopped saying “yes” and wanted more funding for the VA, and the White House didn't. Insiders say he was forced out to make room for someone who would toe the Administration line. Jim Nicholsonreplaced Principi as VA Secretary. Nicholson's only qualifications: being Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Ambassador to the Vatican.
The insiders appear to be right, because just a few days before his resignation, Principi gave an interview to his hometown newspaper outlining his plans for the VA for the next four years. Later we learned he asked for$1.2 billion for VA healthcare and didn't get it.
Now come new revelations about what happens when you push for more VA funding. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak gives us an interesting look into the demise of Rep. Chris Smith(R-NJ), former Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Novak, by anyone's definition an arch-conservative, has stinging words for the Bush Administration in his column, “GOP: The Price of Being Right.”His basic thesis is: step out of line and pay the price.
Rep. Smith was always considered a friend of veterans, but was known to lock horns with Republican leadership when he pushed for more VA funding. He was unceremoniously removed from his Chairmanship and replaced with Rep. Steve Buyer(R-IN), who has shown himself to be no friend of veterans.
What we now know is that both Principi and Rep. Smith were right. The VA is terribly underfunded, especially the healthcare portion of the budget. And, the Bush Administration has had to do an about-face and deal with that reality.
The Senate is asking for $1.5 billion more for VA healthcare and the House, on orders from the White House, is asking for only $975 million. Now the White House is rethinking that lower number and wants to add $300 million. All of this will be sorted out the week of July 25th when Congress works out a VA budget compromise.
Principi was right, and he's gone. Rep. Smith was right, and he was demoted. The lesson to be learned here, according to Novak, is “an orderly Republican Party does not dwell on mistakes, even to figure out what went wrong.” And the GOP still hasn't figured it out. They keep applying Band-Aids to the gaping wounds in the VA healthcare budget.
Not only does the GOP sacrifice their own who disagree with the Party, they completely ignore legitimate legislative efforts from the opposition. The hard work of Senator Patty Murray(D-WA), Rep. Brian Baird(D-WA) and many other Democrats to fully fund the VA have been consistently voted down on party lines.
The sad part of all of this is that veterans end up paying the price. No matter what compromises are reached on VA healthcare funding, the dollar figure will fall far short of what is needed to treat all qualified veterans.
Every day more veterans come into the VA system. More than one million troops have cycled through Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies show at least 30 percent of those troops will have PTSD issues. Add to that the wounded and injured, and you have a patient load the VA cannot possibly handle without proper funding.
It's time for veterans to realize that partisan politics must be put aside when it comes to VA funding. As the politicians argue about who did what to whom and what amount is the right amount, veterans are waiting for healthcare. Some of those veterans never get the healthcare. Some of those veterans die.
Former VA Secretary Principi, well before he was removed from office, gave all veterans the call to arms. Principi said, "History is littered with governments destabilized by masses of veterans who believed that they had been taken for fools by a society that grew rich and fat at the expense of their hardship and suffering."

If VA Budget is Ok, Why did Principi Resign! Nicholson Awnsers.

The more James Nicholson Spoke, The longer his nose got!

Senators and advocacy groups on Thursday questioned the projections behind a fiscal 2007 budget request that would significantly boost spending at the Veterans Affairs Department. But department officials said the proposal is sound and is not subject to the same problems that led to an unexpected shortfall last summer.
In testimony at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, VA Secretary James Nicholson discussed the details of a 2007 budget proposal that would give the department $80.6 billion, a 12.2 percent increase over the spending level enacted for this year.
"We're confident; we've spent a lot of time on this," Nicholson told committee chairman Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Last June, lawmakers were informed of an unanticipated $1 billion shortfall in the VA's fiscal 2005 budget that the department attributed to errors in forecasting health care system needs.
A budget amendment signed by the president in August 2005 gave the VA an additional $1.5 billion to tide it over to the end of the fiscal year. At the time, Craig described the situation as "extremely frustrating."
At Thursday's hearing, Nicholson said last summer's shortfall resulted from the long timeframe for budget development. The fiscal 2005 budget was based on 2002 data that did not reflect operations in Iraq, he said, whereas the 2007 budget is based on 2004 data that reflects the increased rate of veterans applying for benefits following combat service.
"We did go back to the model the VA has used for years," Nicholson said. "We've been over it many times back at the department, and we think we're on top of it."
As a result of last summer's problems, the VA has started reporting quarterly to its Senate oversight committee, and officials say they are seeking closer coordination with the Defense Department to get early notice of discharge rates.
VA spokesman Terry Jemison said the department has made "significant improvements" to its actuarial model that supports budget requests, including enhancements to how it estimates illness rates and veterans' reliance on other medical providers. Accuracy in veterans' assignment to income-based priority groups also has improved, as have projections of the needs of veterans returning from the Middle East, he said.
In questioning, senators raised concerns over several other aspects of the proposed budget, including a projected 38 percent increase in fee collections attributed in part to a controversial proposal to charge annual fees and co-pays to certain non-service-disabled veterans. Other questions addressed the accuracy of the VA's estimates for health care spending for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and increased applications for benefits by eligible seniors steered toward VA by enrollment assistants with the Medicare drug program.
Signaling concern for looming budget problems, Craig urged committee members to work together to find lasting solutions -- such as the proposed user fees -- to the VA's overall rising costs. Craig said VA medical care appropriations have increased 69 percent since 2001, a rise that VA's Jemison said "roughly tracks" medical inflation rates.
"If the president's proposals are not acceptable, then let's discuss other options," Craig urged committee members. "What will occur in the near future . . . is that VA spending will collide with spending demands made in other areas of government."
"VA's budget," he said, "presents mathematical realities that Congress will be forced to address."