Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Medicare for all

Drs. Cathy Canepa and Dan Neuspiel of Health Care for All North Carolina will talk about how to achieve a single-payer Medicare system for everyone on March 31.

The discussion will be 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Friends Meeting (Quaker), 570 West Rocky River Road, at the intersection of Highway 29 and Highway 49 in the University City area.

The discussion follows a salad supper at 6 p.m. Register at by e-mailing Phone: 704-599-4999.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health care law, constitutional or not

Now that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on President Obama's health-care law, it seemed appropriate to review some of the debating points made at Charlotte School of Law last September.

Elizabeth Wydra, general counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, approved by Congress last year, is constitutional.
Nelson Lund, professor of constitutional law at George Mason University, argued the opposite.

Debate centered, of course, on the "individual mandate," the law's requirement that every citizen buy health insurance or pay a penalty, and whether it is allowed by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8), which gives Congress the right to make laws regulating commerce among the states.

Wydra said the mandate is constitutional because it "regulates the means by which people pay for health-care services" across the country. U.S. hospitals are required to treat people who show up at the ER even if they don't have insurance.

"They will run up a bill that they can't afford to pay," she said. "But someone will pay it" -- namely other patients with private insurance and other taxpayers. Uninsured people may seek care in hospitals outside their home states, she said. The decision to "opt out" of buying insurance "profoundly affects the nation as a whole" and, thus, falls within the Commerce Clause, she said.

Lund countered that the Commerce Clause pertains to economic activity. "Failing to purchase health insurance is not an economic activity. It's not an activity at all. Never before has Congress tried to use this power to force Americans to buy things they don't want...It's a completely novel idea."

Instead of relying on the Commerce Clause, Lund said Congress could have used its taxing powers to raise money to pay for insurance coverage for all citizens. But President Obama had promised not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans.

"This is a stealth tax operating in the guise of a regulation of commerce," Lund said. "Just because Congress can do something under one of its powers is not enough reason to expand another power."

Wydra responded that the mandate is allowed under the Commerce Clause because Congress is allowed to pass laws that are "necessary and proper" to carry out its enumerated powers.

Without the mandate, and without large pools of healthy people who are less expensive to insure, insurance companies wouldn't be able to afford to extend coverage to all citizens, including those with pre-existing medical conditions. The mandate, she said, is part of a larger "scheme" to overhaul health care. "No one can possibly argue that health services reform is not an appropriate commercial regulation."

Lund countered that if Congress can require citizens to buy health insurance, it could also require them to buy broccoli. "It's not now a part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme, but it could easily become one."

No winner was declared. And neither speaker would predict what the Supreme Court will do. We're all waiting for that decision.

Monday, March 26, 2012

That baby chick could make you sick

Children love getting baby chicks at Easter. But public health officials warn people to be careful when handling these pets.

“All poultry, including baby chicks and ducklings, can potentially carry salmonella in their droppings as well as on their feathers, feet and beaks, even when they appear healthy and clean,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies. “Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.”

Parents should make sure children wash their hands thoroughly with hot water and soap after handling poultry or touching any area where poultry is produced or housed.

Most people become ill from salmonella infection between one to seven days after exposure. Many people recover in a few days without any medical treatment, but some experience life-threatening illnesses, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and other complications.

Symptoms include fever, headache, severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams warns that salmonella can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants and soil in the area where the poultry live or roam. Last year, 15 states, including North Carolina, reported 40 documented human cases of salmonella illness associated with baby poultry.

Read more here in English, and here in Spanish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

White House honors Adam Searing

Adam Searing, director of the Health Access Coalition for the N.C. Justice Center, is being honored today at the White House as a "Champion of Change" dedicated to improving access to health care.

Searing's Health Access Coalition is North Carolina’s leading voice for progressive health care reforms that address the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. He also teaches a class in policy and politics at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Public Health. In 2012 he was named a Health Advocate of the Year by the national consumer group Families USA.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted. Groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To learn more, go to

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social Security: Why it matters

"What’s Ahead for Social Security and Why It Matters" is the subject of a free forum Thursday, March 22, at the YWCA, 3420 Park Road.

The forum is from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments starting at 6 p.m.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters and AARP-NC, the forum will feature a panel discussion, including Helen Savage, director of development at AARP-NC; David Swindell, associate professor in public policy at UNC Charlotte; and Chris Fitzsimons, director of N.C. Policy Watch.

RSVP appreciated: Peg Chapin,; 704-846-2540

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Health care for the uninsured

Charlotte-area health providers will speak at a free forum on "Health Care Reform: Its Effect on Our Local Uninsured" Tuesday, March 20, at Whitehead Manor, 5901 Sardis Road.

Pam Silberman, president and CEO of the N.C. Institute of Medicine, will open the meeting at 8 a.m. with a talk about access to health care for the uninsured and the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

A panel discussion will follow, including Dr. Michael Dulin of Carolinas Healthcare System; Mary Wilson, director of Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services; and Dr. Hayes Woollen of Novant Health.

Breakfast and registration begin at 7:30. Parking is free. Enter the parking lot from Sardis Road. RSVP to Rebecca Palmer at or 704-248-3724.

The forum is sponsored by MedLink of Mecklenburg, safety-net providers of health care.