Publisher's note: The author of this post is Dan Way, who is an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.
Monday meeting in Hillsborough called educational in nature
HILLSBOROUGH - The League of Women Voters supports a national universal health care system, and in support of that aim one of its North Carolina units has created a speakers bureau that is offering public presentations with information on the Affordable Care Act and training public librarians to answer questions about the law.
A description of the next public session sponsored by its Durham-Orange-Chatham unit, scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough, says
the "45 minute presentation ... is free and open to the public. Representatives from the League of Women Voters will explain the law in a factual, comprehensive, and unbiased way, including the law's impact on North Carolinians."
How unbiased the presentations will be could be in the eye of the beholder. The unit's website
includes the following statement:
The League favors a national health insurance plan financed through general taxes in place of individual insurance premiums. As the United States moves towards a national health insurance plan, an employer-based system of health care reform that provides universal access is acceptable to the League.
The League supports administration of the U.S. health care system either by a combination of the private and public sectors or by a combination of federal, state and/or regional government agencies.
The League is opposed to a strictly private, market-based model of financing the health care system. The League also is opposed to the administration of the health care system solely by the private sector or the states.
Why is an organization whose name infers that its primary concern is voting issues so heavily involved in national health reform?
"We have a long history of supporting universal health care," said Brenda Rogers, president of the Durham-Orange-Chatham unit.
"The organization was founded in 1920 to counter the views that women did not know enough to vote. We grew out of the suffragist movement with voter education as the basic component," Rogers said.
"We believe in providing health care for all people who live in this country, and particularly for those who do not have the income, that we need to provide some alternative other than them going to the emergency room," Rogers said. "So we see the preventive care portion of the Affordable Care Act being very important."
Daniel Keylin, communications director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said there does not appear to be a legal problem with the league's initiative.
"They are supposed to be a nonpartisan group, and they aren't supposed to endorse candidates. Promoting Obamacare isn't really endorsing a particular candidate," but more of an issue-advocacy endeavor that is allowed under the league's 501(c)4 tax status, Keylin said.
"Since the Obamacare exchanges opened last month, North Carolinians have been discovering what a train wreck Obamacare truly is," Keylin said.
"While only a single person in the entire state has enrolled in Obamacare through Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 160,000 North Carolinians have received notifications telling them their health care plans have been canceled," he said. A state party prress release cited an Associated Press
report chronicling the number of insurance cancellations state-by-state.
"No amount of spin from any group or politician can change the fact that Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster, and Democrats like [North Carolina U.S. Sen.] Kay Hagan must be held accountable for their failed records," Keylin said.
Rogers admitted that the website's problems "certainly [give] us pause about the implementation" of Obamacare.
The website crashed Oct. 1, its first day of operation, and has been experiencing major problems ever since. Difficulties in enrolling individuals on the health care exchanges has led to a six-week delay in the deadline for signing up.
"I think there is a difference between what the general intent of the program is and the failure of the website. But we can still support the intent, whereas the implementation has not gone well, and it is very frustrating," Rogers said. "We probably did not understand all of the subtleties of the program" when the 1,000 pages of the law were being drafted, and neither the public nor Congress could forecast how all the moving parts would play out, she added.
"The plans are better that people will be getting because it will cover all sorts of preventive care free of charge," Rogers said. "They can't be kicked off when they have a major medical problem and a lot of those sorts of things. So therefore the plans are probably going to be a little more expensive."
One of the big remaining questions for those who would enroll on the exchanges is whether they will receive a supplement in the form of a year-end tax credit to offset some of the costs of the higher premiums, Rogers said.
She said libraries were chosen as preferred venues for the presentations. "Libraries these days are a place that people come to use the computers. If they don't have computer access at home, libraries are the place they can go. So the librarians need to know about the Affordable Care Act and how they get onto the system," Rogers said.
The Obama administration's own internal forecasts in 2010 calculated that 93 million Americans would lose their policies under the Affordable Care Act.
"As the insurance companies make changes, and evidently they do on a regular basis, then they have to comply with all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which is a good thing," she said.
While the league may not endorse candidates, it's not bashful about its ideological preferences.
"When you look at what I would call our progressive agenda, you would probably not become a member of our organization" without kindred political leanings, Rogers said. "By the nature of our positions and our history, we attract people who tend to be pretty much in line with the way that we're [advocating]."
The Obamacare presentations are expected to part of a larger public agenda for the league. "As far as I know, this is the first time that we've organized statewide" with a speakers bureau that sends members of the local unit on an educational series of presentations, Rogers said. Additional programs are being considered. The tri-county unit is now attempting to create a similar education/advocacy speakers bureau program on "the voter protection issue" involving voter reform legislation such as Voter ID that were passed in the 2013 session of the General Assembly, Rogers said.