Avoid terrorists and tunnels
Regarding the guest column “Going to Israel and Palestine to see for myself” by Kylie Stephens (Oct. 27):
Stephens wrote: “Americans should care about the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine simply because of the human factor. … I am simply calling for Americans to do a better job of seeing the humanity in all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.” I agree. So many of the local people she will meet will be lovely, wishing for a better future for themselves and their children. And so too will many wish for peace. But the leaders – they openly wish for a different piece, and it is a large piece. All of Israel and the annihilation of its people. And maybe Stephens and me too.
I too desire to pick up a paper and not see: Iran test-fired ballistic missiles with the painted Hebrew message “Israel must be wiped out.” Or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Iranian president and his likes refusing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, insisting Jewish immigrants return to their “fatherlands” (hmm, isn’t this a right of return? no less than to the land of Nebuchadnezzar). Hamas and the Palestinian Authority reward its terrorists for every Jew killed, continue the practice, and even receive foreign aid for doing so.
My hope is for Stephens and her delegation to enjoy their trip. (But do avoid terrorists and terrorist tunnels like the one discovered earlier today). During the visits, please think about Arab attacks on Jews from 1920, 1929, 1930s, and 1950s, the Arab invasions in 1948 and 1967, terrorism extending to Munich (murdering Jewish Olympic athletes), Achille Lauro (killing a wheelchair-bound Jew named Leon Klinghoffer by pushing him over the ship’s side), plane hijackings, and sending rockets indiscriminately to kill. Be sure to read the Hamas charter (“Israel will arise and continue to exist until Islam abolishes it.”)
Finally, in the recesses of your history lessons, ask often, Are you on a trip dated June 23, 1944, with the International Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt? (Finding was the concentration camp was humane and peaceful, only to learn after the war, that immediately after the visit, nearly all camp inmates were deported and gassed). My friends and I all wish your delegation well!
Health Insurance Tax must be delayed
The N.C. Department of State Treasurer (DST) touches the lives of one in 10 North Carolinians. We manage the 26th largest pool of money in the world valued at over $110 billion. We also have the responsibility for the state’s pension and health care plans. Next to their family and faith, we impact the things that people value the most: their money and their health care.
Our loyalty and fiduciary duty is to the participants of these plans and to the taxpayers of this state. The DST, through the State Health Plan, provides Medicare-eligible retirees with Medicare Advantage health insurance. Recently, we were able to renegotiate with UnitedHealthcare to freeze premiums for 2018.
We were able to achieve this despite the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Tax (HIT), which was not assessed in 2017, but is scheduled to come back in 2018 if Congress does not act.
New data from actuarial firm Oliver Wyman shows that the return of the HIT will cost North Carolina $366 million in additional premiums next year. If repealed, the state would save $45 million in 2018 just with retired state employees.
The HIT is an Obamacare tax on health insurance premiums designed to help offset the cost of the tax credits for ACA exchange enrollees. Recognizing the negative impact the tax was having across the nation, Congress worked across the aisle in late 2015 to pass a bipartisan one-year moratorium on the tax for 2017, saving the health care system $21.4 billion.
But the clock is ticking on the end of our reprieve.
Republicans were expected to tackle the HIT through the repeal of the ACA. The House-approved measure to repeal and replace the failing law and the two main Senate bills all included provisions to end this irresponsible tax. But, unfortunately, congressional lawmakers weren’t able to pass the legislation.
We have an obligation to teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters as well as other state and local retirees who served our state and now find that inaction by Congress could cost them dearly. Seniors, other than state retirees, in Medicare Advantage programs will see their premiums increase an average of $490 per couple next year. In North Carolina, premiums for Medicare Advantage plans would be 30 percent lower if Congress extends the moratorium on the tax.
Right now, Congress is considering legislation that will prevent this tax from being assessed in 2018. Congress needs to act quickly. We appreciate and look forward to the N.C. congressional delegation taking the lead.
Dale R. Folwell, CPA
North Carolina State Treasurer
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