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North Carolina’s Senator Burr used to be a fan of NC’s Medicaid program.  In fact, he presented NC Medicaid with a national award for delivering great care and containing costs just last year.  Then came the Affordable Care Act and the decision NC has to make about expanding Medicaid coverage using federal dollars to low-income people.  Now Senator Burr thinks NC’s Medicaid program is just terrible – and he has a simple fix!  Just require people on Medicaid to have a primary care doctor and a medical home.  Whoops – Senator Burr, NC’s Medicaid program does that already and has for years assigned people on Medicaid to a primary care doc and printed the name and number on the back of each person’s Medicaid card.  I know the game in Washington DC is to just make up your own facts to fit your current argument, but please don’t try that back here at home.  Watch:

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Richard Burr 2US Senator Burr is the star witness at the NC General Assembly’s “bash the Affordable Care Act” here at UNC Greensboro today. Unfortunately Burr, described as “the foremost authority on health care in the Senate” by one of the legislators here, is making some pretty big mistakes in his testimony.  Amazingly, these mistakes just happen to contribute to his attack on the Affordable Care Act:

1.  Burr, in explaining his opposition to NC taking the federal money to expand the NC Medicaid program, suggests that NC Medicaid program doesn’t require beneficiaries to be assigned a primary care doctor.  He says if he could change the NC Medicaid program for the better he would require every beneficiary to be assigned to a primary care provider. Earth to Burr:  NC’s Medicaid program already does that.  From NC Medicaid’s website:

CCNC/CA is North Carolina’s Medicaid program. It provides you with a medical home and a primary care provider (PCP) who will coordinate your medical care.

As a CCNC/CA member, you are eligible for all the services that Medicaid covers. Being a member also has the following advantages:

You can choose a medical home with a primary doctor. A medical home can be chosen for each family member. Your local County Department of Social Services (DSS) office has a complete list of participating doctors. If you do not choose a medical home, you will be automatically assigned to one.

You can call your primary doctor day or night for medical advice. Check your Medicaid ID card for your doctor’s daytime and after-hours phone numbers.

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AdamSearing Headshot JPEGAfter 17 years at the North Carolina Justice Center I’m finally going to be leaving.  I am joining  Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families (CCF) at the McCourt Center for Public Policy in DC.  Luckily I’ll be doing the much of the same work with CCF that I’ve done here in North Carolina but this time working with states around the country to continue Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The Center for Children and Families is a great organization I’ve had the pleasure to work with for many years, most recently on their innovative project to take what we learned here in North Carolina about using video in the nonprofit world to many other states.  I thought I would always be here at the Justice Center but this opportunity is simply too exciting and the ability to help expand health coverage for many, many more low income people is too important to pass up.  Living my values is one of the great privileges of my job here at the Justice Center and I’m excited to continue to work for equity in health care for families in all states around our country – an outcome that is long overdue.

[You can read the CCF announcement about my hiring here. ]

 

Be assured however that I will continue to push for reform here in North Carolina. My work with all my colleagues here at the Justice Center has highlighted the big changes necessary in our state.  Not only do we need to finish the job and expand Medicaid using federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act, but the recent changes to our tax system that shift the burden to middle and lower income families are unconscionable as well as the current assault on our teachers and educational institutions.  The Justice Center is a force for opportunity and change in the Old North State and I look forward to continuing to work with my friends here as a partner as I begin a new role.

So, while my job may be changing, my commitment and the work I do will not.  It’s been a great 17 years.  I look forward to the next challenge.

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While this shouldn’t come as a surprise, according to the latest polling from Gallup, the uninsured rate is dropping about three times faster in states that have expanded Medicaid, set up a state health exchange and generally embraced the Affordable Care Act as opposed to states (like NC) that are dragging their feet.  Real world consequences should be expected when politicians put bashing Obama ahead of what’s best for their constituents.  How embarrassing for North Carolina.

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Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 10.12.16 AMYou could tell this story in any one of the most rural counties in North Carolina. From the Wilkes Journal-Patriot in a stunning story yesterday:

Over half of the 898 people who contacted a temporary counselor in Wilkes County for help in signing up for health insurance during the first federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period didn’t qualify.

Most of these 512 people unable to get insurance with reduced premiums through the ACA didn’t qualify because their incomes were below the federal poverty level, said Wilkes Health Department Director Ann Absher. Minimum annual income for a single person to qualify is $11,490. It’s $23,550 for a family of four.

Here at the NC Justice Center we hear similar stories every time we go to the more rural parts of our state. Most recently we heard the difficulty health assisters have in Beaufort County when they have to tell people they are “too poor” to get coverage.  It’s easy for Governor Pat McCrory and some NC legislators to be glib about why they refused the billions of dollars in federal money to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  But I’d like to require them to have to personally answer the poor, hardworking folks they denied health coverage to this year. Maybe then they wouldn’t be smiling quite so broadly as they are in the photo below.

Medicaid bill sign2 - Version 2