Archived Story

Board, legislator discuss Obamacare

Published 8:08am Sunday, March 17, 2013

During its meeting with area legislators Friday, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners discussed recent actions related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
The board met with state Sen. Bill Cook and state Reps. Paul Tine and Michael Speciale
The board indicated it supports having the federal government set up the “exchange” associated with the act. Commissioners said that’s a burden the state and counties do not need to be saddled with.
An exchange is a mechanism for organizing the health-insurance marketplace to help consumers and small businesses shop for coverage in a way that permits easy comparison of available plan options based on price, benefits and services and quality, according to a federal government website. By pooling people together, reducing transaction costs and increasing transparency, exchanges create more efficient and competitive markets for individuals and small employers.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled N.C. House voted to allow the federal government to set up the state’s health-care exchange and not to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. The state Senate also approved the bill.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill March 6.
Initially, the act called for poor Americans to be covered through Medicaid. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows states to opt out of the segment of the law that would have expanded Medicaid coverage. In the Legislature, Republicans oppose expansion of Medicaid, expressing concerns about the cost and current problems with the existing Medicaid program in the state.
Critics of the Republicans’ effort to reject the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program argue the GOP’s opposition to expansion will disproportionately affect the poor.
The commissioners expressed their concerns over the possibility the tax-exempt status associated with bonds the county issues may be removed by the federal government. The board opposes the proposal. The legislators indicated they also do not support the proposal.
“Mr. Chairman, this item is something that’s really more of a federal issue, but it’s something that’s very important for y’all to be aware of,” County Manager Randell Woodruff said. “There’s a move now at the federal level to take away the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Those are the bonds that all your affluent people purchase.”
Woodruff said losing that tax-exempt status would be “devastating” to local governments because they would have to pay exorbitant rates to obtain financing to build capital projects.
“It would just be horrendous for local governments all over the country if that were done,” he said.

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