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MedicaidAs Governor McCrory and his HHS Secretary Aldona Wos convene a rather strange closed door “listening  session” on Medicaid in Greensboro today (it’s scheduled to last all of 45 minutes), let’s hope they both took the time over the weekend to read an excellent, “from-the-trenches” essay by Goldsboro physician Dr. David Tayloe in Raleigh’s News & ObserverIn it, Tayloe explains the importance of preserving and improving North Carolina’s homegrown “medical home” model for delivering Medicaid services (Community Care of North Carolina) rather than falling for the false promises of out-of-state HMO companies that have been trying to muscle their way into the state.

CCNC is rooted in care coordinated by providers, not insurance corporations. By keeping care decisions in the hands of those most qualified to make them, medical home models improve health outcomes for North Carolina’s Medicaid population. Doctors, care managers and pharmacists across provider-led networks share data and best practices to provide efficient and high-quality care to patients, decreasing emergency room visits and reducing wasteful spending.

The CCNC model is the result of decades of work that has consistently generated positive results in North Carolina. An HMO takeover of this system would mean higher administrative costs to the state and billions of taxpayer dollars leaving the state to pay corporate shareholders. Under federal Medicaid rules, the additional money required to pay HMOs can come from only one place – sharp cuts to provider payments. When physicians choose not to participate in Medicaid, patients neglect preventive care and head to the emergency room in crisis, raising state costs while producing less positive health outcomes. Read More

ICYMI, the editorial page of the Greensboro News & Record pulled no punches this weekend in an editorial excoriating state senators for their last minute proposal to hamstring local governments when it comes to use of the sales tax for public services and structures at the local level. Here’s an excerpt from “Oddest idea yet”:

Republican state senators canceled a floor vote on a confusing sales-tax bill Thursday until they could get their stories straight. Which means it might not return.

Of all the heavy-handed directives the legislature has pushed down on local governments in the past couple of years — airport and water system takeovers, de-annexations, local redistrictings, elimination of privilege licenses — this one might be the most illogical.

The measure, which originated in the Senate Finance Committee without notice Wednesday, was presented as a means of giving counties additional tax flexibility. With voters’ approval, they could add to the local sales tax, designating revenue to schools or transportation projects.

But the strings attached tied everything in knots.

The legislation put restrictions on how new revenue could be spent — for education or for transportation, but not for both. It put a cap on the local sales-tax rate. And, perhaps most baffling, it required that if a county raised the sales-tax rate, it would have to raise it all the way to the cap….

The half-baked sales-tax bill, which also includes unrelated provisions boosting economic development efforts, was yanked from the calendar before the Senate adjourned for the weekend. Senators will return to Raleigh Monday, but the wacky sales-tax proposals ought to vanish as quickly as they appeared.

For more information on the proposal in question, click here for succinct summary.

Health-Reform-SBAs Adam Linker explained last week when he debunked the latest conservative mythology surrounding the Affordable Care Act, the law continues to succeed despite its imperfections and the endless, hysterical attacks of the President’s political opponents.

Today, there’s still more confirmation of this undeniable reality from Washington state. As The Olympian reported this morning, the state’s uninsured rate has been plummeting:

State insurance officials say fewer than 9 percent of Washington residents still don’t have health insurance.

That’s a significant improvement from numbers before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner counted 970,000 uninsured Washington residents last year. That number is now 600,000 or about 8.65 percent of the state population.

Agency spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis told The Olympian (http://is.gd/p2XsBG ) two factors are driving the improvement: enrollment in Medicaid and sign-ups for private insurance, but inside and outside of the new state health insurance exchange.

The insurance department reports the individual market has grown to more than 327,000 policies. That represents about 81,000 more insured people than before Oct. 1, when Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange opened.

The exchange also helped sign up nearly 350,000 people for free insurance through Medicaid.

Despite the many successes here, at last check, North Carolina’s uninsured rate remains significantly higher.

Death penalty(Cross-posted from the blog of the NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty).

By Kristin Collins

Yesterday, a California court confirmed what we have known in North Carolina for years: The death penalty is so dysfunctional as to be not just unconstitutional, but futile.

The ruling said of a system in which inmates sit on death row for decades, and only a tiny percentage of those sentenced to death are ever executed:

“… for too long now, the promise has been an empty one … It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.”

Lest anyone offer the “simple” solution of executing people more quickly, let’s pause to remember the more than 140 innocent people who have been freed from death row. Seven of them were in North Carolina, and some spent more than a decade on death row before their innocence was recognized.

North Carolina’s system is no different from California’s. Since 1977, when the modern death penalty began, nearly 400 men and women have been sentenced to death, and only 43 have been executed. Read More

Common Core picAn editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record offers some important insights on the legislation — soon to be law — that “repeals” North Carolina’s adherence to Common Core education standards (i.e. the standards we’ve already spent tens of millions of dollars on to implement).

The movement led by some Republicans to withdraw North Carolina from the national academic standards was prompted by an irrational fear of a “federal takeover” of education.

Common Core was no such thing. Initiated by the bipartisan National Governors Association, the movement recognized a need for all American students to follow similar academic guidelines. When it was embraced by the Obama administration, however, opposition intensified.

Yet, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory supported Common Core. So did the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. They recognized the necessity of aligning North Carolina curricula with those used in other states.

Partisan politics and distrust of President Obama won out. The legislature Wednesday approved a bill that will replace Common Core with yet-to-be-written North Carolina standards. McCrory will sign it. But he knows its secret: At its core, there may not be much difference.

Despite use of Tea Party-type rhetoric in the bill, the end result could be something that closely resembles Common Core — which apparently would be OK as long as it’s not called that….

North Carolina can call these standards whatever it wants as long as our students keep up.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.