MEDICAID EXPANSION CAN AND DOES IMPROVE ACCESS TO CARE: Since Medicaid expansions began in 37 other states in the nation, there have been a great number of studies examining what happened. They invariably show that the insurance expansions improved access to care. More than half a million uninsured North Carolinians who could gain insurance if the state expanded Medicaid would be able to afford medical care. This occurred in both urban and rural areas. Part of the answer is that safety net providers, like community health centers, stepped up to the bat to expand capacity, knowing that Medicaid expansions would help make this possible both by increasing Medicaid revenue and reducing uncompensated care pressures. Moreover, many medical practices have learned how to become more efficient and effective, by increasing collaborations with other health professionals, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and care coordinators.
A WARNING FOR NC ON THE CLIMATE COST OF NATURAL GAS: It sounded good a few years ago: natural gas, cleaner than coal and better for the environment. But now burning more natural gas is sounding like the wrong turn at the wrong time. Extracting natural gas leads to increased leaks of methane, a contributor to global warming that in its first 20 years in the atmosphere heats up the climate 80 times more than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. Studies show a big increase in methane over the last decade that corresponds to the rise in fracking for natural gas in shale formations. Last week, Drew Shindell, a Duke University professor and climate scientist who helped coordinate reports by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wrote to Cooper to call for a halt to the expanding use of natural gas. Twenty seven former Environmental Protection Agency scientists and administrators endorsed the letter. During a call with reporters, Shindell said “The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel infrastructure across the country. We’re urging Governor Cooper to take the lead and halt new pipelines and power plants in North Carolina, providing an example for the rest of the country and even for the rest of the world.”
RESTORING FORESTS WILL COUNTER CLIMATE CHANGE: We are fast approaching an environmental threshold of devastating effects on our world ecosystem, economy and society. Of the environmental health issues impacting our planet, healthy forests are probably the most under appreciated. This summer, two important scientific reports reiterated the importance of maintaining and re-establishing healthy forests on a global scale. The first paper, published in Science, found that under our current climate there is room for an extra 2.2 billion acres of trees, which would store about 205 gigatons of carbon. The authors concluded that global tree restoration is currently our most effective climate change solution. Unfortunately, climate change is already altering the potential tree coverage, and the authors estimate that on our current trajectory, the global potential tree cover may shrink by 551 million acres by 2050. These results highlight the opportunity of climate change mitigation through tree restoration but also the urgent need for action. While scientists can identify the problem and suggest solutions, ultimately society’s leaders must recognize and address the issue. Regardless of the approach, support for forest restoration and controlling invasive pests is essential for the environmental, economic and social health of the planet.
NANCY PELOSI: ELIJAH CUMMINGS WAS OUT NORTH STAR: This week, the people of Baltimore, the Congress and the United States lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth: our beloved Chairman Elijah E. Cummings. In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, who pushed the Congress and country always to rise to a higher purpose, reminding us why we are here. As he said whenever he saw that we were not living up to our Founders’ vision for America and meeting the needs of our children for the future: “We are better than this.” Elijah’s story was the story of the United States: A son of sharecroppers who became Baptist preachers, he dedicated his life to advancing justice, liberty, fairness and human dignity. He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it. As chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, he used his gavel to restore integrity, accountability and honesty to Washington so that government would be a force for good for working people, ensuring that all could experience the American Dream as he did. Elijah’s leadership truly strengthened America, and his life and legacy will continue to inspire us all to go forth in a way that is worthy of the oath of office that we take to the Constitution, worthy of the vision of our Founders and worthy of the aspirations of our children. For, as he often said, “Children are the living messengers we send to the future we will never see.”
TURKEY'S VICTORY OVER DONALD TRUMP: President Trump’s decision to withdraw 1,000 American troops from Syria without consulting any aides, experts or allies, and without any warning to America’s Kurdish comrades in arms, whom he placed in mortal danger, has provided chilling evidence of the danger posed by his chronic inability to appreciate a president’s responsibilities. Mr. Trump, as he always does, claimed a huge victory — “an amazing outcome” that saved “millions and millions of lives.” That scores of Kurdish lives have already been lost, that thousands of people have fled their homes, that a swarm of Islamic State followers escaped from internment camps, that the Kurds themselves turned for help to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, that America’s dwindling credibility in the world was further undermined, meant nothing to the president. “It’s not our border,” he said on Wednesday. The betrayal was agonizing. The Kurds are the world’s lost nation, their lands divided among five Middle Eastern countries that treat them as dangerous interlopers. They thought they had found a protector in the United States — Kurds in Iraq had been America’s allies, and those in Syria carried the brunt of the fight against the Islamic State. But then, casually in an Oct. 6 call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump abruptly sold them out. If any more evidence is required, there’s that impossibly puerile follow-up letter to Mr. Erdogan, with the casual threat to destroy the Turkish economy and the chatty advice — “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” — which the Turkish president’s office confirmed Mr. Erdogan promptly dumped in a trash can.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MARVIN WINSTEAD: STOP THE PIPELINE: If built, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will go across my farm. That may not seem like much of a cause for concern for anyone else, but I can assure you it is. Not only is this dirty, dangerous pipeline a threat to our clean water, it hurts my ability to grow crops, build any new structures near the easement, and severely impacts my property value. If that’s what’s happening to my property, it’s happening to every other landowner in the path of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline. If we in N.C. do not stand up to Duke and Dominion Energy, the corporations behind this $7.5 billion pipeline, we’ll be sending the message that other projects can steamroll us in the future. We need to stand up for ourselves in eastern North Carolina to ensure that the wealthy corporations behind these projects don’t think they can take advantage of us now or at any point in the future.
NEIL STAHL: SENATOR TILLIS NEEDS TO DO HIS DUTY: A couple days ago I wrote Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis about the potential impeachment, in particular their duty to keep an open mind. Almost immediately I got back from Tillis a page full of Republican talking points; exactly the opposite of what he should have sent. He should be representing us; aside from our senators, we have no representation in this vital decision. Instead, he’s representing his party. America deserves better than Tillis. It deserves senators who take their job seriously, their job of representing us all in the important decisions of our time.
SUSAN BOOK: MARK JOHNSON IS WASTING EDUCATION DOLLARS: Regarding “Mark Johnson: Why I disagree with the NC Board of Education,” (Oct. 11 Forum): Bureaucrats are trained to be stewards of state taxpayer’s money. Is State Superintendent Mark Johnson being a good steward? If he is, his office wouldn’t be facing parents and teachers calling for the removal of Istation from our schools and a pending hearing over its botched procurement. If Johnson is a good steward, a bulk purchase of iPads, with no specific purpose or request, would never have been made. Most people don’t like bureaucrats, but North Carolina has seen what kind of waste can result when leaders at the top disregard purchasing protocols and policies. Perhaps our superintendent should rethink his office and rehire a few more bureaucrats.