Friday, August 03, 2007

Health 8-03-07

We must take measures to keep our people strong and healthy. My colleagues and I agree Medicaid costs -an estimated $500 million this fiscal year- are a huge burden for counties to bear. The state will take over the counties' share of Medicaid costs in a three-year phase out. Counties will have extra money for school construction and other local needs without raising property taxes. This method protects our small counties and rural counties with a large number of people on Medicaid. We are very proud of this Medicaid swap. Every county will end up with at least $500,000 more than they would have had otherwise.

Small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees will receive a tax credit that will both lower employers' costs of providing insurance and increase the number of insured people. We also gave North Carolina's Health Choice (SCHIP) $59 million to provide healthcare to the 264,000 uninsured children in this state and gave the NC Kids' Care program for poor children $7 million. We added $2.7 million to hire 54 more school nurses and allocated $250,000 for pediatric diabetes prevention and education.

We appreciate the hard work of our senior citizens to build a strong foundation for this state and worked to show them our thanks through this budget. We set aside $7 million to provide a tax credit for families that purchase long-term care insurance and $250,000 in grants for community groups that help seniors enrolling in state and federal prescription drug plans. We established a rating system for adult care homes so families will have a better way to judge and compare these facilities. We also allocated $2 million to expand the state Health Care Personnel Registry, which will now include information on unlicensed personnel who work with patients.

This budget includes $4.6 million to improve and expand community-based treatment and support services for those with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders. We appropriated $2 million for HIV prevention programs in local health departments and historically black colleges and universities, $2 million for screenings for breast and cervical cancer, $8.3 million to purchase and store 635,000 doses of flu vaccines, and $500,000 to reduce health disparities among whites and minority groups. The Healthy Carolinians initiative will receive $1 million to help local health departments lower rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, and infant mortality. The University of North Carolina system will receive $25 million for cancer research, growing to $50 million in three years, and $8 million will be used to construct a cancer center at UNC- Chapel Hill.

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