Health careSometimes, journalists do their best and most important writing when they share trials and travails from their own lives. Such is the case this morning in the “Focus” section of Raleigh’s News & Observer in an  important story by Burgetta Eplin Wheeler entitled “The many agonies of our health care nonsystem.”

In the article, Wheeler uses her own college-age son’s recent and absurdly expensive experience in an emergency room to explain and expose the madness of America’s dog-eat-dog, everyone for him or herself health care system.

After documenting the crazy costs of his (insured) visit, she says this:

“A large reason it’s this complicated, costly and exasperating is because we refuse to just cover everyone. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have universal health care.

It’s unfathomable that critics seem unwilling to acknowledge that they are paying for others anyway. They are paying for it in headline-grabbing higher insurance premiums. They are paying for it in $100 IV bags in the ER. They are paying for it in Affordable Care Act subsidies.

And they are paying for it when a beloved son leaves $1 million in unpaid medical bills that must be absorbed in 100 hidden ways when a $1,000 colonoscopy might have saved his life had he been able to be insured.

“In the end, we still pay for this care,” Leslie Boyd said in a recent blogpost for WNC Health Advocates, an Asheville group she founded after the death of her son, Mike Danforth, from colon cancer at age 33. ‘My son’s surgeries, chemo and radiation cost taxpayers nearly $1 million, when we could have saved his life for about $1,000 a year. When you allow someone to go without needed preventive care and chronic disease management, they become very sick – and very expensive.’”

What’s, of course, must maddening about all of this is the blindness and disregard for facts that opponents of universal coverage continue to display. Here’s Wheeler: Read More


When the Academic Standards Review Commission meets Friday afternoon members will review how North Carolina students fared on the 2015 NAEP tests. The so-called Nation’s Report Card measures the proficiency of 4th and 8th graders in reading and math.

The discussion about students’ ability to perform at or above a proficient level comes as commission members decide whether to scrap the Common Core State Standards.

Steve Parrott, president at Wake Ed Partnership, is among those advocating to keep Common Core.

Parrott appeared last week on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear an excerpt from that interview:

An agenda for this afternoon’s meeting can be found here.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

The Governor has announced that another $600 million tax cut for businesses will be implemented after the state has reached an arbitrary balance of $1 billion in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund through drastic cuts that have harmed jobless workers by reducing the accessibility of the program, eliminating support for skills training and shrinking the critical wage replacement function of the program.

After jobless workers contributed more than two-thirds of the dollars to get North Carolina to this moment in lost wage replacement, now must be the time to re-balance the choices made in 2013 to reflect the principles of a sound unemployment insurance system.

That means recognizing that the economy needs jobless workers to maintain their consumer spending at a basic level in order to sustain demand for businesses goods and services.  Without temporary wage replacement, the ripple effect through the community of North Carolinians (who have lost their job through no fault of their own) not being able to shop for groceries, pay utility bills or mortgage payments or put gas in the car to get to job interviews holds back our communities from a strong recovery and growth.

As we have written about in the past, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was ill-prepared for the Great Recession after policymakers cut taxes for employers in good times.  With the announcement today, North Carolina appears poised to make the same mistake: underfunding the program in good times leading to ineffective stabilization of the economy in bad times when jobless workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

In the meantime, jobless workers today still face a labor market with too few jobs for those who want to work, limited skills training opportunities and a system that is increasingly inaccessible.  North Carolina had just 13 percent of jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance in the second quarter of 2015 down from 39 percent in the second quarter of 2013 and ranking us 49th in the nation. Our economy needs a system that works for jobless workers and employers alike: the current approach continues to do neither.



Heirs of some state residents sterilized against their will under North Carolina’s state-sanctioned eugenics program will make their case for compensation before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals on Monday afternoon, arguing that the legislature’s distinction between living and deceased victims for purposes of restitution violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

They’ve been excluded from payments because of a provision of the eugenics compensation law that requires victims to have been “alive on June 30, 2013.”

Between 1926 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized some 7,600 state residents against their will. Decades later, Gov. Mike Easley publicly apologized to the victims and their families and lawmakers began discussions about compensation for the state’s shameful program.

They spoke of health funds to cover victims’ medical expenses and public education efforts to inform state schoolchildren about eugenics history, funded an interactive exhibit about the program at the N.C. Museum of History and proposed awards as high as $50,000 per victim, with no cap on a compensation fund.

But by the time compensation became a reality in 2013, the state’s offering had been stripped down to a capped $10 million fund, with little else.

Nearly 790 victims or their families filed claims for payment from that fund by a June 30, 2014 deadline. The Industrial Commission then reviewed the claims and found that 220 qualified for compensation.  An initial payment of $20,000 was sent to them in October 2014, and a second in the amount of $15,000 went out at the beginning of November.  The remaining funds are being held pending appeals.

“This second check represents the next step in making amends for one of the darkest chapters in our history,” Governor McCrory said in a statement following the second payment. “No amount of money can undo the harm that occurred, but it is my hope that this compensation will give victims some measure of solace, comfort and vindication.”

Among those denied payment are the heirs of victims otherwise qualified but who died before the June 30, 2013 cutoff date set by the General Assembly.

The victims include Kay Francis Redmond, who as described in a recent editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal “was labeled ‘feeble-minded’ and forcibly sterilized at 14 in Iredell County. “

Redmond later suffered from depression after learning what happened to her and died five years ago at 69.

Redmond had a daughter before the state sterilized her, though, who went on to graduate from high school, attend college for a year and now works as a phlebotomist and has been the administrator of her mother’s estate.

The Industrial Commission’s denial of her claim is “just unfair,” Nichols told the Winston-Salem Journal in October. “Everyone didn’t get justice.”

In papers filed with the court, lawyers for the state argue that the exclusion of heirs of victims who died before the cut-off date aligns with the purpose of the funding law, which was to compensate victims only.

But as the heirs who’ve been denied compensation point out, that argument is undermined by a separate provision of the law that allows for compensation to the heirs of victims who filed a timely claim but died after the cutoff date.

So, if a victim died before June 30, 2013, the families get nothing. But if a victim filed a claim by that date and then died, the families are compensated.

That results in similarly-situated victims being treated differently, their attorneys argue, and bears no rational relationship to the purpose of the compensation program — which is to provide restitution to all who suffered at the hands of the state under the eugenics program.

“One could indeed surmise that the apparent purpose of the living victim threshold is to limit the number of compensation recipients,” the attorneys argue in papers filed with the court.

“Even if the Legislature’s motive was benign (to issue larger shares of the fund to each recipient), not only does that purpose bear no rational relationship to the Program’s remedial purpose, but it would perniciously incentivize the rejection of claims. Such a rationale cannot withstand even the lowest level of Equal Protection review.”

Argument in three separate cases brought by victim’s families will be heard before Judges Linda McGee, Chris Dillon and Mark Davis at the N.C. Court of Appeals on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 at 1:00 p.m.


Lawmakers want to know more about the closed-door session held last month by the governing board of the state’s public university system, in which most chancellors received significant raises during a secret portion of the meeting.

“On behalf of the Speaker and the President Pro Tem, pursuant to G.S. 120-19, I am writing to request any and all records in the University’s possession regarding today’s UNC Board of Governors’ meeting,” wrote Andrew Tripp, an attorney in Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, in an email sent the same day as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Oct. 30 meeting.

Tripp asked for any audio recordings, as well as draft minutes and agendas for both the open and closed portions of the meeting. (Scroll down to read his email.)

The 32-member UNC Board of Governors announced this week it will hold a previously unscheduled meeting in Chapel Hill Friday to discuss the legislative request, as well as to get an update on faculty compensation.

Meanwhile, an agenda for the Nov. 18 joint legislative committee on government operations has the UNC system listed for a report, as well as an update about the recent controversy over the McCrory administration’s decision to award a prison maintenance contract to a campaign contributor over correction officials’ objections.

The chancellor raises, which included pay bumps as high as 20 percent or up to $70,000, came as rank-and-file employees have seen little movement in their own salaries in recent years, other than a $750 bonus that all state employees are slated to receive this year.

It also comes shortly after the UNC Board of Governors, who all received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, announced its hiring of former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at a base salary of $775,000, much higher than the $600,000 that outgoing UNC president Tom Ross received as a base salary.

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