North Carolina’s General Assembly reconvenes five weeks from now and it’s becoming clear that House and Senate Republicans are divided on the best approach for Medicaid reform.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the  Joint Legislative Oversight Committee of Health and Human Services, House members backed away from a Senate’s plan that would allow out-of-state, managed-care companies (or MCOs) to participate in the reform efforts.

Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos appealed to legislators to give the administration time to move forward with its plan to have accountable care organizations (or ACOs) handle the Medicaid system. Dr. Wos stressed the ACO model would work, but participating doctors would need more time and flexibility.

Wake County Representative Marilyn Avila likened the reform effort to finding the best recipe for a stew:

“One part of it may be ACOs, one part may be MCOs, one part may be just leaving it the heck alone, explained Rep. Avila. “But until we evaluate the stew that we got, against the stew that we want, we don’t know how to make the changes. Starting from scratch with a wholesale overhaul is probably the worst way to go about this.”

Look for things to get more heated in this kitchen when the legislature convenes January 14th. To hear part of Tuesday’s debate, click below.

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May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37Just days after Governor Pat McCrory announced he would join 14 states in a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive order on immigration, North Carolina advocates are speaking out.

Familias Unidas, Action NC and community allies are holding a Friday press conference in Charlotte to address their concerns.

Here’s more from the group’s press advisory:

According to Rosalba Tlalolini of Familias Unidas, “When he was Mayor of Charlotte, McCrory supported and praised immigrants and our contributions. Now that we have the opportunity to become documented and come out of the shadow, he now turns his back on us, the very same people who contributed to his success”.

Rogelio Reyes of Action NC said “I am confused by the governor’s actions. When he was mayor of Charlotte, he welcomed immigrants, the very same people who built this city and its infrastructure, including the Bank of America and Wells Fargo towers. Now that he is governor, he has changed, much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers already add tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to North Carolina’s economy. In NC, 122,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for deferred action under the president’s November 20th executive actions on immigration. If these immigrants are able to receive a temporary work permit, it would lead to a $197 million increase in tax revenues, over five years.

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As media outlets focus on the news that GlaxoSmithKline will lay off about 900 research and development workers in the Research Triangle Park, be sure to make time to read Rob Schofield’s latest column on NC Policy Watch’s main website.

Schofield takes a critical look at North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system, and more changes on tap for 2015. Here’s an excerpt:

If a person wanted to understand what’s wrong with North Carolina’s government these days and how the folks in charge have lost sight of the forest in a wasteful and destructive obsession with inspecting the paperwork associated with each and every little tree, he or she would have done well to attend yesterday’s msrs-unemployment3eeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance.

The backdrop: A time of crisis

The meeting came at a time of what can only be described as profound crisis for the state’s unemployment insurance system – the social safety net program that’s supposed to provide a cushion for families whose breadwinner has lost his or her job through no fault of their own. Despite the fact that the state’s economy and employment picture remain extremely weak, the number of workers accessing insurance benefits has been dropping like a rock for months.

According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics, a scant 13% of unemployed North Carolina workers are now receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Add to this the fact that benefit levels themselves have been slashed and that the length of time that one may receive benefits has also been dramatically reduced (half of those who manage to obtain benefits now exhaust them before they find work) and you get an idea of just how grim the picture has become for hundreds of thousands of unemployed North Carolinians.

Read the full Setting the Record Straight column here.