Commentary

Paul Stam 2Rep. Paul Stam was bellowing about the evils of expanding Medicaid on WRAL-TV’s On the Record this weekend. He claimed that every dollar the federal government spends on expansion is being borrowed from the Chinese, which a WRAL fact check story showed to be ridiculous.

He also said that we don’t need to expand the program because the people who would be covered are already getting help.

Most of the people who would be in any kind of Medicaid expansion are already getting large subsidies on the federal exchange, several hundred thousand probably…

Well no, that is simply not true either.

According to Adam Searing, a senior research fellow a Georgetown University who has worked in North Carolina, there are about 357,000 completely left out in a Medicaid coverage gap because they are both ineligible for Medicaid and unable to qualify for help buying insurance on the exchanges. Some 143,000 may be in range of people who make between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Some in that range, he said, may have bought insurance. But others may not have been able to, even with help from the subsidies.

Stam’s reaction when confronted with the facts?

During a break in the show, we checked in with Stam regarding his statement on Medicaid. He said he was unaware of how the coverage gap worked

Say what?

If you are keeping score at home, Stam’s case against Medicaid expansion is based on a claim that is not true and he admits that he doesn’t understand how a key part of the program even works.

But he’s opposed to expansion anyway.

Commentary

ApodacaSenate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca decreed from on high Tuesday that bipartisan legislation that would create an independent redistricting process is “dead. It’s not going anywhere.”

Apodaca certainly ought to understand what the legislation sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that includes conservative Republican Rep. Paul Stam is trying to accomplish, as Apodaca was himself a co-sponsor of a redistricting reform plan three different times, including in the 2009-2010 legislative session.

(Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger sponsored similar legislation five times when he was in the minority)

The hypocrisy of Apodaca and Berger now claiming that redistricting reform is a bad idea after sponsoring it for so many years is troubling enough, but the fact that one member of the Senate can unilaterally decide that a proposal is dead even before it’s introduced is even more outrageous and ought to give lawmakers of both parties pause.

It does make you wonder though. Why fool around with a six month session, long debates, press conferences and briefings, floor votes, amendments and all the rest?  Let’s just let Sen. Apodaca decide up front what passes and what doesn’t.

Think of the time and money we’d save. A banana republic can be very efficient.

 

Commentary

Governor Pat McCrory doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to help two Robeson County men, half-brothers railroaded and wrongly incarcerated for 30 years for crimes they did not commit, even though they are now destitute, unable even to pay their water bill.

The News & Observer on Sunday detailed the plight of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown,  both intellectually disabled, who were released from prison September 4 of last year after being found innocent of a rape and murder that DNA testing later proved another man committed.

The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.

McCrory issued a press release when McCollum and Brown were freed from prison, saying he was prepared to receive a pardon request.
Yesterday, I was heartened to see the convictions of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown vacated by the court,” said Governor McCrory. “My office has a process in place to review applications for pardons of innocence.  If they apply, we will begin reviewing their applications as soon as they are received.
That was September 4. Attorneys for McCollum and Brown filed a pardon application a week later, on September 11. The N&O reported Monday that a spokesman for McCrory said the office is “still in the process of reviewing the requests.”

It has been five months. What is McCrory waiting for? McCollum and Brown have already suffered mightily at the hands of the state, robbed of their freedom for 30 years.

The very least McCrory can do is hear their pardon application now, with no further delay.

Commentary

Tom-Ross-116By now you probably know that the UNC Board of Governors, all of whom were elected in the last four years by the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate, voted this morning to force UNC President Tom Ross to resign effective January of 2016. Sarah Ovaska has a good rundown of the meeting and the aftermath.

Rumors about the dismissal started early this morning and were confirmed by the board after a closed session that lasted more than two hours.

There was no public discussion when the board returned to open session, only a vote on a cryptic “employment package” for the president. The board and Ross issued a joint statement  that praised Ross’ performance and said the “timeline for transition was different” between Ross and the board. In other words he was forced out.

After the meeting Ross and Board Chair John Fennebresque met with reporters in one of the most bizarre press conferences you will ever see, with a combative Fennebresque unable to answer a basic question asked by reporter after reporter; why exactly was Ross forced to step down.

Fennebresque said it had nothing to do with his performance, the joint statement said that too. Fennebresque said he was very pleased with Ross’ efforts for the UNC system, that he had been doing a wonderful job.

He said it was not related to Ross’ age—he is 64—and Ross said explicitly that he was not ready to retire. Fennebresque said it had nothing to do with the scandals about athletics and academics at UNC-Chapel Hill, that Ross has handled those situations “admirably.”

And Fennebresque said it had nothing to do with politics either, the hardest answer of all to believe given the rumors about pressure on the board from legislative leaders to make a change.

It was about nothing apparently. UNC President Tom Ross, a man respected throughout North Carolina and across the country for his intellect, leadership and integrity, was being forced out for no apparent reason. Yes, Ross will get a severance and will remain on the job for a year but that is not the point.

He is being dismissed, force to resign before he wants to leave and for no reason that the head of the board that is firing him can identify.

What a cowardly and pathetic decision.

It has to be politics and the folks behind it at least ought to have the courage to admit it.

Supporters of the university and taxpayers across North Carolina deserve at least that much if a sadly overtly political board is firing a leader who they admit is doing a wonderful job running one of the most important public institutions in North Carolina.

Commentary

mc-1Governor Pat McCrory emerged from his much-publicized meeting with a handful of other governors and President Obama at the White House  Tuesday breathlessly declaring that Obama is open to considering waivers to allow North Carolina to crafts its own version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

But that shouldn’t be news to McCrory or anybody else.  Nine states, most of them with Republican governors, have already expanded Medicaid with waivers from the feds or have been in discussions with the Obama Administration about waivers for their own versions of the program.

Neighboring Tennessee is the latest state with Republican leadership to move forward, with Governor Bill Haslam unveiling a proposal for Medicaid expansion last month. 

Apparently McCrory had to fly to Washington to figure out that the Obama Administration was willing to work with state officials who are developing their own Medicaid plan.  Or maybe he just wanted us to know he was talking tough with Obama.

I presented a very strong argument for more flexibility if we even consider Medicaid expansion, so we can have a North Carolina plan instead of a Washington plan, and especially a plan that would encourage more people to get a job or get training before we expand another government program,” McCrory said after the meeting.

While it’s too bad it took McCrory much longer than many Republican governors to realize the Obama Administration was willing to work with the states to provide health care for people who need it, at least he seems to finally understand it.

There’s also the head-scratching logic that more people will have to get a job before Medicaid is expanded, as if only people who are working need to be able to see a doctor, not to mention the people with chronic illnesses whose lack of access to treatment prevents them from working in the first place.

But maybe now McCrory can get on with what he should have done already, following the lead of his Republican colleagues across the country by expanding Medicaid in North Carolina and providing health care coverage for several hundred thousand low-income people and creating thousands of jobs in the process. It is past time.