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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a cheerful video this afternoon touting the supposed successes of the state’s new Medicaid billing system that delayed payments for thousands of medical providers for months over the last year.

The nearly 4-minute video produced by state employees includes interviews set to upbeat instrumental music with several providers and DHHS officials talking about how well the complicated Medicaid billing system is working one year after its bungled July 1, 2013 launch.

Much of the system is working now, and providers are getting paid faster than before, DHHS officials say in the video.

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 N.C Tracks replaced the state’s previous 25-year-old Medicaid system and came online despite warnings in a May 2013 performance audit from the state auditor’s office that DHHS hadn’t fully tested the system, left too much up to vendors’ discretion and had no way of knowing ahead of time if the system was ready.

The billing problems have left legislative fiscal research staff without firm budget numbers on the $13 billion program, a major point of contention in the current budget negotiations for Republican state Senate leaders.

Missing from DHHS’ birthday video were some of the choicer statements doctors, lawmakers and others have had about new system and its rollout last year under N.C. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos.

Here’s a few of the less-than-glowing comments:

  • “NCTracks has made billing go from complex to borderline impossible,” said Sandra Williams, chief financial officer of Cape Fear Valley Health System, at an October legislative hearing.
  • “NCTracks was a disaster, and the State was beyond the point of no return,” lawyers wrote in a lawsuit filed by medical providers in January against the state agency.
  • “We are pretty much in the dark with trying to figure out where we are in the current year,” said Susan Jacobs, a fiscal analyst for the legislature in January about getting budget data from N.C. Tracks.
  • “It’s June 19 and we still don’t have the numbers,” Sen. Tom Apodoca, a Hendersonville Republican, said in a hearing earlier this month about Medicaid budget information, according to the News & Observer. “If push comes to shove, we can always issue subpoenas.”
  • “We are having to manually key claims and do things that before would pay automatically,” Laura Williard of High Point’s Advanced Home Care told WNCN in early June. “At one point, I had 11 temps working for our company to do something that was paid automatically before.”

A hundred children, including three in North Carolina, were shot and killed in accidental shootings last year, largely in situations where loaded guns had been left unattended and reachable by small children.

The 2013 deaths of children under 14 were tallied through press reports by the gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action and compiled in a report “Innocents Lost” to call attention to preventable child gun deaths.

The report (click here to read) also concluded that two-thirds of the deaths could have been prevented if the guns had been locked and stored away from where children could reach the weapons.

Shooting locations. Source: "Innocents Lost" report from Everytown for Gun Safety

Shooting locations. Source: “Innocents Lost” report from Everytown for Gun Safety

The North Carolina deaths included that of 10-year-old Christopher Stanlane Jr. , who was killed in Fairmont in March 2013 when his father was cleaning a shotgun and it accidentally discharged, instantly killing the boy.

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State Rep. Paul Stam

State Rep. Paul Stam

State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, rankled his fellow lawmakers and others with comments Tuesday he made on the House floor likening pedophilia and sadism to sexual orientations, as opposed to sexual perversions.

Stam is one of the most socially conservative lawmaker in the legislature, and was a leading proponent of 2012’s Amendment One that further codified a ban in North Carolina on same-sex marriage. He made his comments Tuesday during a debate over whether public charter schools should be banned from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring or admissions.

“Sexual orientation is not defined anywhere. I have here 30 different types of sexual orientation,” Stam said, according to Raleigh television station WRAL. “I thought we should exclude pedophilia, masochism, and sadism, which are sexual orientations.”

He also handed out information(click here and here to read) from an outdated 2000 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) on sexual paraphilias that listed a number of sexual perversions and disorders as well as homosexuality. The American Psychiatric Association in 2013 said it erroneously listed disorders like pedophilia under the sexual orientation classification in the updated DSM-V manual.

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Judge Ola Lewis; Source, Judgepedia.org

A campaign website for a judge running for the state’s highest judicial seat posted an N.C. Policy Watch reporter’s article without attribution, leaving the false impression the article had been written by the judge.

Judge Ola Lewis, a Brunswick County Superior Court judge running to be the next chief justice at the N.C. Supreme Court, said a member of her campaign staff made a mistake in posting the article without proper attribution.

The Sept. 25 article, “Discretion at the Supreme Court” was written by Sharon McCloskey, N.C. Policy Watch’s courts and law reporter.

The entire text of McCloskey’s article about how cases comes before the state Supreme Court appeared on Lewis’ campaign website under a June 18th entry that stated (falsely) it was written by Lewis.

A click on the link brought up the text of McCloskey’s article, but with no mention that McCloskey – and not Lewis – had authored the piece.

Screen grab of Lewis' campaign website

Screen grab of Lewis’ campaign website

A second article by McCloskey titled “Business as usual at the Supreme Court” also appeared on Lewis’ website without any attribution. That piece (click here) was originally published in June 2013 on N.C. Policy Watch.

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One of the top Democrats in the state House or Representatives owed more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes, according to court filings and tax records reviewed by the Carolina Journal for this report.

State Rep. Michael Wray

State Rep. Michael H. Wray, a Gaston Democrat serving as the deputy minority leader, owed more than $100,000 for federal, state and local taxes that went unpaid on businesses and properties he owned, according to the investigative report by the Carolina Journal’s Don Carrington. (The Carolina Journal is part of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative Raleigh-based thinktank.)

Wray, who describes himself as a small business owner on his legislative website, has been in the state House since 2005, and recently defeated a Democratic challenger in the Mary primary. He has no Republican opponent in the general election this November for his district in northeastern North Carolina that covers parts of Halifax and Northampton counties.

Federal IRS officials also filed two tax liens in February on Wray’s property in Northampton County, seeking $83,979 in unpaid taxes.

Wray did not respond to requests from the Carolina Journal for comment, though an attorney for Wray told Carrington the taxes had been paid off.

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