Physician from NC Senate leader’s district makes impassioned plea for Medicaid expansion

deny-medicaid-400x270In case you missed it, a veteran family physician from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s home county of Rockingham has authored one of the best new pleas for closing North Carolina’s Medicaid gap that currently keeps hundreds of thousands of working North Carolinians uninsured. In an open letter to Berger and Gov. Pat McCrory in the Greensboro News & Record, Dr. Stephen Luking offers several heartrending examples from his own practice about good, honest people whose health and life expectancy have been directly endangered as a result of the state’s stubborn resistance to Medicaid expansion. As he notes:

“These families aren’t ‘takers’ looking for a handout. The working poor are our cousins and our neighbors. They sit with us in the pews on Sunday; their children or grandchildren go to school with ours.

Some have watched well-paying jobs fly to Mexico or China. Some through personal or family circumstance earn meager wages. Some have employers who craftily maintain them under “temp” status or keep their hours worked under 30 hours per week to avoid insurance obligations. Some have reached their God-given potential.

Who are we to pass judgment? The fact is that near-poverty has left all of them uninsurable without Medicaid. Your rejection of Medicaid expansion may have earned you bona fides and high-fives in political circles, but in the real world your decision has harmed these families left and right.”

And here’s the powerful conclusion:

“Like any family doctor who has practiced for 30 years, I know what it’s like to make a decision that leads to the death of a patient. The appropriate intervention gone badly, the symptom after consideration mistakenly reassured. … I can tell you, it cuts like a knife. You face the family and fight back the tears. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wish you had that moment back.

And sometimes one night leads to a dozen. My wife will tell you, it’s a load to carry.

Gov. McCrory and Sen. Berger, you now carry that same weight, whether you will admit it or not. Welcome to this our unfortunate fraternity: those who carry the blood of others on our hands. Like it or not, we are all three members.

Some in Rockingham County will surely die — if some haven’t already — because of your partisan decision to reject Medicaid expansion.

Please embrace our shared humanity. The two of you have the power to get this done.

Re-approach this issue with an open mind and you will experience a change of heart.

Until then, I hope you’ll wake up some nights in a cold sweat, knowing you have committed a terrible wrong. Shame on you for your complicity thus far in denying basic health insurance to the most vulnerable residents of our state.

Shame on the rest of us for letting you get away with it.”



In rant against Virginia court ruling, Phil Berger admits what HB 2 is really about

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

As is explained in this morning’s Must Read over on the main Policy Watch site, yesterday’s federal Court of Appeals ruling in favor of a transgender Virginia high schooler is helping to expedite the growing national debate over LGBT rights and the fate of North Carolina’s almost month-old discrimination law known as House Bill 2.

As the lawyers representing Gavin Grimm (the Virginia kid who brought suit seeking access to the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity) and those suing North Carolina over HB 2 explain, the ruling serves as “a beacon of hope in the face of increasingly hostile rhetoric against transgender people…across the nation,” and “makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school.”

And here’s what else the decision has done: it has once again forced the blustering opponents of LGBT equality to forget their scripted lines about “bathroom predators” and admit their true objective: to deny the existence of transgender people altogether.

Read what North Carolina’s Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said yesterday in his official response to the Virginia court ruling:

“People need to wake up:  Roy Cooper, Barack Obama, two unelected federal judges and the liberal media are on the verge of completing their radical social reengineering of our society by forcing middle school-aged girls to share school locker rooms with boys.”

Did you catch that? According to the man who is arguably the most powerful politician in North Carolina, transgender human beings don’t exist; they are merely people of one gender pretending to be people of the other. It is a remarkably mean-spirited and ignorant assertion by a supposedly educated and informed man.

As was noted in this space last week, there’s never really been much doubt that fulminating preachers like Greensboro’s Ron Baity and Raleigh’s Patrick Wooden held such offensive and extreme views. Spreading fear, hatred and social division is what these charlatans are all about after all.

But when North Carolina’s most powerful politician — a man who at one point in his career in politics was a fairly reasonable guy — sinks to such levels and expresses such uninformed, spiteful and just plain mean views, it is a dark and embarrassing day for our state.

The only silver lining in all this is that at least North Carolinians should all now know where things really stand. The debate over HB 2 is not a fight about “bathroom safety”; it is a fight over whether LGBT North Carolinians (especially “T” North Carolinians) even exist and will be recognized as human beings by their government. At some point, proponents of love and inclusion will win the day, but it’s going to be a long, tough and, at times, unpleasant slog.


BREAKING: Fourth Circuit rules in favor of transgender student

[This post has been updated.] Good news from in Richmond, Virginia home of the Fourth Circuit:

“A Virginia transgender student who is anatomically female should be allowed to use the male bathroom, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on Tuesday.

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Grimm is challenging the Gloucester County school system’s bathroom policy requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom.

The appeals court decision reverses the prior ruling and could have repercussions on a controversial North Carolina bill along the same lines.

For Grimm, this case started when the school system barred him from using the Men’s restroom. The ACLU is helping the high school junior, who was born a girl, fight to use the ladies room or a specially designed unisex facility.

Attorneys for the school system argued in court that anyone can use the unisex bathroom and a Title IX violation has not taken place.

The case is the first taken by the federal court of appeals and the fourth circuit includes North Carolina. The ACLU believes it will be a bellwether in setting precedent for other school boards to look at when they’re looking at these sorts of decisions throughout the country.”

For more background on this case, read reporter Billy Ball’s interview with the lawyer representing Gavin Grimm by clicking here. As a reminder, this is the same case that Gov. McCrory and others criticized Attorney General Cooper for not joining last fall in opposition to Gavin Grimm’s claim. We’ll have more updates shortly as they become available.


Is New Mexico’s Republican governor sending a message to NC with cancellation?

As has been widely reported this morning, the conservative Republican governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has suddenly developed an urgent and unexplained need to stay in her home state on Saturday May 7 and, thus, will not be headlining the North Carolina GOP convention in Greensboro. This is from an article in Santa Fe’s New Mexican newspaper:

“For about two weeks, the North Carolina Republican Party touted plans by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to speak at its state convention next month. On Monday, however, a Martinez spokesman said she won’t be going to the Tar Heel State.

Unlike Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil, who earlier this month canceled performances in North Carolina to protest a controversial law recently signed by the governor there, Martinez did not call off her appearance as a protest, spokesman Chris Sanchez said. Instead, he said, ‘She has a scheduling conflict and will be in New Mexico that day.’

A law signed last month by North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory makes it illegal for transgender people to use public restrooms that don’t match the gender they were assigned at birth. It also also stops local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.

The law has prompted various cities, including Santa Fe, to impose restrictions on taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina and caused executives of major corporations to call on that state to repeal the statute.

The New Mexican late Friday broke the news about the governor’s plans for the North Carolina speech. At that time the convention agenda on the party’s website listed “Dinner with Gov. Susana Martinez” on Saturday, May 7. An April 5 post on the North Carolina GOP’s Facebook page said, “Join Gov. Susana Martinez at state convention this year! You won’t want to miss it!”

By Monday afternoon, the party’s convention agenda no longer listed Martinez’s name in connection with the dinner event, though it was still mentioned in another section of the website. A spokeswoman for the North Carolina GOP couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.”

Perhaps the “scheduling conflict” is legit, but given the way HB2 has been chasing off businesses right and left and the fact that other GOP governors like South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Georgia’s Nathan Deal have declined to get behind similar proposals in their states and the fact that Martinez’ name has been bandied about as a possible GOP veep candidate, it seems quite likely that she is taking the opportunity to join a growing list of conservative Americans to, in effect, boycott North Carolina. It will be interesting to see what Martinez is actually doing on May 7.

As they look for a replacement speaker, perhaps state GOP officials should follow my colleague Chris Fitzsimon’s recommendation from earlier today:



Editorials pan McCrory’s disingenuous performance on Meet the Press

Gov. Pat McCrory’s performance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning has drawn multiple “thumbs down” reviews. This is from the lead editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal:

“Our state motto is ‘To be, rather than to seem.’ Sunday morning, before a nationwide audience on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Pat McCrory essentially flipped the motto: Make it ‘To seem, rather than to be.’

The governor smiled often and kept his tone civil as he defended most of House Bill 2, the new state law that makes room for ugly and uncivil discrimination against LGBT people and is costing our state millions of dollars in business boycotts. Show host Chuck Todd failed to adequately press McCrory on the provision of the law that mandates people use the public bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, a provision apparently aimed more at revving up the base for 2016 than any concerns about public safety.

Our governor emphasized dialogue on the issues raised, even though he gave no room for that before rapidly signing this egregious bill that the legislative leaders he follows pushed through.

We couldn’t help but think of politicians across the South who civilly defended segregation back in the day.”

And this is from this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Despite his 10-minute dance on ‘Meet the Press,’ the governor keeps avoiding his obligation to explain to the public, through questions and answers from the media, why he allowed this law to go through. Instead, he has released videos in which he smiles about what he considers an overblown controversy and complains about the misunderstanding and hypocrisy of HB2’s opponents….

The governor’s failure to meet directly and at length with the North Carolina media is just making things worse. If the governor believes in HB2, if he goes along with its sponsors in the General Assembly, he should be forthright and stand up for his position, not obfuscate and dodge.

McCrory made a huge mistake in not vetoing HB2. One way to begin fixing the damage is to fully explain his thinking, respond to questions and describe what he’ll try to do about this law that is hurting North Carolina. It’s time for the governor to stop defending a legislative mistake and to start truly defending North Carolina.”