Raleigh, N.C. — The final version of the budget drops provisions in the House budget that would have eliminated the Child Fatality Task Force.
In existence since 1991, the 35-member task force, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, is an appointed panel of experts that range from pediatricians to researchers to child advocates to law enforcement. Ten lawmakers are also appointed to serve on the panel.
The task force regularly studies and make recommendations aimed at lowering North Carolina's infant mortality and children's intentional and unintentional death rates. It has been the driving force behind changes such as requiring child car seats and bicycle helmets.
There is no mention of the task force in the conference report that lawmakers will vote on this week.
"I don't think it will end up being cut. It serves a very useful function," Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said of the task force earlier this year. "This task force helps us get accurate medical information on things that will actually impact children's lives."
Also gone is a provision that would have shifted some pregnant women from being covered by the state's Medicaid health insurance program to policies offered by the new health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. Currently, women whose incomes are up to 185 percent of poverty qualify for coverage until a few months after they deliver. A Senate provision would have ratcheted that down to women at 133 percent of poverty, with the remainder switching to plans on the health exchange.
Advocates worried that poor women would not be able to afford the care they needed, even with state subsidies.
"It was dropped," Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, said Monday of the provision dealing with pregnant women.