Commentary

Art Pope 3Phil BergerThe talk about Medicaid expansion for North Carolina in 2015 from political leaders without much power to do anything about it continues. Gov. McCrory and his HHS Secretary keep talking about expansion as does, rather amusingly, lame duck Speaker/U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Obviously, expansion would be a terrific thing and is horrifically overdue as the current absurd obstructionism is literally costing thousands of lives per year — all in the name of nothing but conservative ideology.

Sadly, however, neither of these stances by McCrory or Tillis will amount to a hill of beans come next legislative session unless the real conservative bosses in North Carolina politics give their assent. Those two bosses, of course, would be Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and the most important conservative power broker in state politics, Art Pope. After all, the General Assembly has already passed a law to prevent McCrory from doing the deed without their approval and, for all we know, Tillis could well be reduced to trolling the halls of the General Assembly next year as a lobbyist or McCrory lackey.

Meanwhile, there are few if any positive signals from Berger and Pope to be found. Berger says he’s still opposed and Pope…well, his hirelings continue to spout mean-spirited nonsense and gibberish on the subject.

Of course, all of this could change. The powers-that-be in the health care industry want expansion and understand the tremendous good it would do — both for people and in need and, perhaps even more importantly from the corporate perspective, their profits. Add to this the fact that conservative majorities in the General Assembly could be slightly smaller next year and there’s certainly reason to hope that the politics on the issue will continue to improve.

That said, when you’re dealing with true right-wing believers who don’t even bat an eye as their policies literally result in thousands of unnecessary deaths per year, it’s hard to see what’s going to bring about the change of heart. Moreover, at this point in his governorship, Pat McCrory gives literally no indication that he has the ability lead or shape the debate.

News

logoIf you received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield this week quoting individual insurance rates for 2015, it might be worth checking those numbers twice. About 42,000 BCBSNC individuals received letters this week containing incorrect amounts.

In some cases, customers saw their costs increase more than 100 percent.

Blue Cross is inviting customers to call customer service starting Friday to get their correct  rate for next year.

New rate letters are also on the way. About 38,000 customers will learn they received a rate that is too high. Roughly 4,000 customers will be notified that the rates they received were lower than what they should be.

The average rate increase for individual customers next year is 13.4%, with many customers receiving subsidies.

According to the insurer, this error affected only customers who are grandfathered and have a Blue Advantage health plan with a $15 co-pay for primary care office visits (Plan A).

Here’s what to look for:

bcbsnc-mistake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, customers are invited to call customer service starting today to check their rate quote.

News

The Independent, the alternative weekly newspaper in the Triangle, had an interesting piece this week about changes the N.C. Industrial Commission has faced under Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.

The Industrial Commission serves as the decision-makers in workers compensation disputes and has become more hostile to injured workers and more friendly to business interests with matters before the commission, the article, “McCrory has been quietly skewing the workers’ comp system”claims.

It is worth pointing out that the Independent relined on anonymous sources for many of the political cronyism allegations raised in the article.

From the article:

[R]ecent appointments by Governor McCrory and changes by the General Assembly have left the independence of the commission in question. A number of sources that work in and around the commission—who preferred to remain unnamed because they feared retribution—described a political takeover and a deck that looked increasingly stacked in favor of employers and insurance companies. One source with business before the commission described an increasingly hostile judicial hearing environment for workers that will inevitably clog up the Court of Appeals, with the cost of treating injured workers shifting from employers to the taxpayers.

This summer, a small note in the General Assembly’s final budget bill reclassified the Industrial Commission’s 22 deputy commissioners, turning them from career civil servants into at-will employees who will either be reappointed or let go. The lives and careers of these administrative law judges were placed directly into the hands of the commission’s chair, a young McCrory appointee named Andrew T. Heath. The first group of deputy commissioners will be let go on Feb. 15, 2015, and have already begun to be replaced by more pro-business-minded Republicans. The deputy commissioners were the first line of recourse for workers with compensation disputes—the commissioners travel the state deciding cases between the injured worker plaintiffs and the insurance company and employers that don’t want to pay for their care. If the worker or employer appeals the deputy commissioner’s decision, the case is bumped up for a final decision by the six-commissioner Industrial Commission.

You can read the entire article here.

Commentary

Be sure to check out the newest lead stories on the main NCPW site today:

This morning, N.C. Justice Center Communication Director Jeff Shaw authored a personal and exceedingly rational commentary on the latest outbreak of gun madness in our gun-obsessed culture (which even discusses his own personal experience growing up with firearms).

Meanwhile, in this afternoon’s “lead,” Chris Fitzsimon dissects the misleading claims of a conservative national group with an innocuous-sounding name (i.e. the Tax Foundation) about North Carolina’s “business climate.” As Chris notes:

“It’s not an analysis of how our state is doing at all.

It has little to do with the economy and isn’t even an accurate picture of the taxes businesses and individuals actually pay. And it ignores a long list of factors that business leaders rely on when making their decision about where to locate, from transportation to workforce readiness to quality of life for employees.

The Tax Foundation ranking isn’t any way to evaluate the decisions our leaders have made. It’s a flawed mechanism designed to reinforce an ideological agenda. And it ought to be reported with a little more context.”

Bonus story: Check out yesterday’s “Progressive Voices” entry from NCPW contributor Chavi Koneru about the fast-growing Asian American vote and the perplexing failure of politicians to cultivate it — even in closely-divided states like North Carolina.

News

North Carolina’s tight Senate race earned a new distinction this week – topping $100 million spent in total advertising, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.

The contest also brought former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Raleigh Wednesday stumping for Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis:

“There’s no question but that the president’s policies are on the ballot in November, even though the president himself is not,” Romney said. “And I don’t want to see President Obama’s policies furthered in this country any more than they already have been.”

Not to be outdone, incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan will have former President Bill Clinton by her side Friday rallying voters at Raleigh’s Broughton High School. You may recall, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already appeared on Hagan’s behalf last week in Charlotte.

So will these political heavyweights make a difference for voters?

We put that question to NC State political scientist Andy Taylor, who appears on NC Policy Watch’s weekly radio show this weekend with Chris Fitzsimon:
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So, whether you have a fit for Mitt or a thrill when you see Bill, just remember that early voting draws to a close this Saturday. For a list of early voting times and locations, click here.

To find your polling place for Tuesday, November 4th, click here.