HEALTH CARE : North Carolina could save millions in health costs with more efficient care
North Carolina could save millions in health costs with more efficient, patient-centered care, says a new report from the Justice Center's Health Access Coalition released Monday morning.
From community to community in North Carolina there is great variation in the frequency of surgical procedures -- variation that can't be explained by disease rates or factors such as age, sex, or race. In a new paper entitled "Different City, Different Treatment: Saving Money and Improving Care in North Carolina," a health policy analyst says that this variance in surgery rates means where you live is more important than what you prefer in terms of your own medical care.
"Neighboring communities across North Carolina have widely different surgery rates," writes Adam Linker, health policy analyst with the NC Justice Center's Health Access Coalition. "By studying and limiting this variation the state could save money and give patients more control over their own health care."
This geographical difference in treatment, Linker says, means that physician preference is driving care even when multiple valid treatment options exist for a given diagnosis. The result is a system that is wasteful, inefficient and undermines patient choice.
EDUCATION: New bill would enhance basic education opportunities for at-risk youth
Every North Carolina student has a legal right to a sound basic education. But because of flaws in the state's Personal Education Plan program, at-risk youth often don't get access to the help they need.
A new bill introduced last week at the North Carolina state legislature would change that.
Sponsored by Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), HB 804 mandates early identification of students at risk of academic failure - and sets measurable benchmarks to ensure that those students and their families can get the personal attention that maximizes their chance to succeed.
"This proposal is about making sure every child gets access to the tools they need to succeed - and making it easier for parents of at-risk youth to participate in the process," said Rochelle Williams, a policy analyst at the North Carolina Justice Center's Education & Law Project. "North Carolina was on the right track when we created PEPs, but the law needs to be fine-tuned so that it works better for students and parents."
The North Carolina Constitution requires that schools provide each child a sound basic education. At a minimum, experts say, this means ensuring that students are performing at their grade level. If a child is failing in school and needs extra help to succeed, he or she has a right to get it.
State law already requires PEPs students at risk of failure. However, some teachers and principals remain unaware that such plans are required. Other schools are aware of the law, yet churn out one-size-fits-all plans that are far from personal.
"Requiring personal education plans for students at risk of failure is sound public policy," said Williams. "Unfortunately, many of North Carolina's students most in need of this kind of help aren't benefiting from it. Passing this bill would help the state make better use of this vital program."
Tomorrow, April 1, families throughout North Carolina will see a boost in their food stamp benefits as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The act provides $4 billion in added benefits nationally over the next six months in order to increase consumer demand and stimulate the economy.
The Agriculture Department estimates that every $1 in food stamps expands the economy by $1.84. Under the economic stimulus plan, North Carolina will get $145 million in food stamp benefits from April through September, creating an economic boost of an estimated $270 million.
“Food stamps are an ideal economic stimulus tool because they are always spent locally and have a widespread ripple effect,” explained Louisa Warren, policy advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center, the state’s leading progressive advocacy organization. “Families use food stamps at local grocery stores, and that money is passed on to employees, who spend it in other stores, and suppliers, who use it to pay their workers.”
Thanks to the ARRA, families will see their food stamp benefits increase by 13.6 percent, or about $20 to $24 per person per month for most families. As of December 2008, 1,072,607 North Carolinians received food stamps – a 16 percent increase over one year earlier.
“The increase in food stamp benefits will be an enormous help to North Carolina families who are struggling in this recession,” Warren continued. “Many of them have had to cut back on other essentials like health care or have fallen behind in paying their bills so they can afford to buy food. It will also ease the strain on local food banks, most of which are having trouble meeting the increased demand.”
JOBS: Since the recession began, North Carolina has lost more than 175,000 jobs
North Carolina's labor market continued to unravel in February, according to data released March 27 by the Employment Security Commission. Since the recession's start in December 2007, the state has lost, on net, 176,000 payroll jobs. The share of the population that is unemployed also has ballooned to 10.7 percent.
In February, employers eliminated 27,900 positions. Losses were severe and widespread across most every major sector. All told, 52,000 more North Carolinians joined the ranks of the unemployed in January, thereby bringing the total number of individuals who are jobless and actively seeking work to 491,000.
"The labor market continued to unravel in February," said John Quinterno, research associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center. "Since the start of the recession, North Carolina has lost 176,000 jobs, on net," added Quinterno ."What is remarkable is just how swiftly and suddenly the labor market has unwound. Some 77 percent of the jobs losses have occurred just since September."
WOMEN'S ADVOCACY: Coalition gathers for full political, social and economic equality
N.C. Women United, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to achieve the full political, social, and economic equality of all women across North Carolina, will gather at the NC General Assembly for the 2009 Women's Advocacy Day on Wednesday, April 1.
More than 75 activists from across the state will attend the day's events and will urge their legislators to support issues related to the advancement of women and families, including economic self-sufficiency, access to health care, civic participation, and ending violence against women.
Several Senators and Representatives including Rep. Alma Adams (D-Guilford), Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson), Rep. Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe), Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), Rep. Marian McLawhorn (D-Pitt), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake), and Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange) will speak at a press conference on the 2009 Women's Legislative Agenda.
The press conference takes place on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 10:30 a.m. in the press room of the North Carolina legislative building.