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Burr2Richard Burr’s ill-fated exchange with a sharp Canadian physician over the realities of health care in North America continues to rack up some great headlines for North Carolina’s senior senator.

The headline for the Los Angeles Times story is: “Watch an expert teach a smug U.S. senator about Canadian healthcare.”

At the national blog Talking Points Memo, it’s: “Canadian Health Care Expert Schools A Republican U.S. Senator.”

At Salon, it’s “Canadian doctor makes anti-Obamacare senator look like a buffoon.”

At Huffington Post, it’s: “Watch This Doctor Totally School An Anti-Obamacare Senator On Health Care.”

At the Canadian National Post, it’s: “Toronto doctor smacks down U.S. Senate question on Canadian waitlist deaths.”

In case you missed it the other day, here was the most-reported part of their exchange:

Burr: “On average, how many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year? Do you know?”

Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president of Medical Affairs at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital: “I don’t, sir, but I know that there are 45,000 in America who die waiting because they don’t have insurance at all.”

As reported by the folks at Talking Points Memo:

“A substantial majority of Americans believe Obamacare should remain law, either exactly as it is or with small changes, according to a new poll.

Bloomberg News found that a combined 64 percent of Americans said they support keeping the law in place. That includes 51 percent who said it should be kept but may need some small changes and 13 percent who said it should be left alone. Only 34 percent said it should be repealed.”

MarijuanaState Rep. Pat McElraft deserves credit for expressing her intent to introduce legislation that would legalize the use of a specific kind of marijuana oil that has shown promise in treating an especially horrific illness that afflicts children.  The Republican lawmaker from Carteret County got emotional yesterday when she discussed the matter with WRAL’s Bruce Mildwurf. This is from Mildwurf’s online story:

“We’ve got to do this for them. It’s the only hope they have,” McElraft said as she choked back tears.

A good next step would be for McElraft and her colleagues to listen to the heartbreaking stories of any number of adults who have also found blessed relief from numerous forms of intense pain and suffering through the use of medical marijuana and to then think about addressing their needs as well. Read More

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory’s DHHS Secretary, Aldona Wos, unveiled the administration’s long-awaited reform plan for Medicaid.  One of McCrory’s favorite talking points on Medicaid has been how “broken” the system is and how he’s going to “fix” it.  Setting aside the past year of missteps in which McCrory and Wos did more than any Governor and Secretary in history to discredit and cause problems for NC’s award-winning Medicaid program, what does the administration’s plan yesterday tell us about the future prospects of Medicaid and health care for the poor in NC?  Here’s my take:

1. Surrender:  The Governor completely surrendered by backing down from his former big plans to sell off substantial parts of the Medicaid program to private, out-of-state insurance companies.  The proposal yesterday to use “Accountable Care Organizations” or ACOs is simply, at its core, a new way to pay existing or new networks of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.  Paying health providers as a group for each illness a patient gets rather than piecemeal for every test and procedure is supposed to get providers focused on quality and efficiency, especially when payments go up if patients are healthier. ACOs represent gradual evolution in health care and not “major reform.”

2.  Missing the boat on Medicaid expansion: The Governor also made it clear that he has no intention of solving the coverage gap for the 500,000 poor North Carolina citizens who would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if he led the charge to expand Medicaid using the billions of dollars in federal money available to our state. Conservative governors and legislators around the country – whether in New Hampshire or Utah – are coming up with innovative solutions to cover their citizens with all the new federal money available.  By leaving an expansion proposal out of his plans to change Medicaid, our Governor is renouncing any claim to national moderate leadership on this issue, leaving billions of federal tax dollars collected from North Carolinians to go to states that do expand and hurting hundreds of thousands of his own constituents.

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Medicaid gap2In case you missed it yesterday, the Wall Street Journal featured a powerful article on the terrible toll that is resulting from the failure of 25 states (including North Carolina) to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The article – “Millions trapped in health-law coverage gap” tells the story of low-income workers like Ernest Maiden of Birmingham, Alabama who make too much to qualify for their own state’s Scrooge-like Medicaid programs, but not enough to qualify for federal subsidies under the ACA. (There are as many as 500,000 Ernest Maiden’s in North Carolina):

“Ernest Maiden was dumbfounded to learn that he falls through the cracks of the health-care law because in a typical week he earns about $200 from the Happiness and Hair Beauty and Barber Salon.

Like millions of other Americans caught in a mismatch of state and federal rules, the 57-year-old hair stylist doesn’t make enough money to qualify for federal subsidies to buy health insurance. If he earned another $1,300 a year, the government would pay the full cost. Instead, coverage would cost about what he earns.

‘It’s a Catch-22,’ said Mr. Maiden, an uninsured diabetic. Read More