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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, in an interview aired yesterday on a Charlotte radio station, downplayed cuts to unemployment benefits caused by made this year to the state’ s unemployment insurance system.

“We didn’t take away unemployment benefits,” McCrory said on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” program in response to a question about cuts to the unemployment insurance system. “We didn’t extend them. We were following the existing policy.”

Audio clip from WFAE in Charlotte

The state, through legislation signed into law in February by McCrory, did cut both the length of time a person can collect unemployment (reduced from six months to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks) and also cut the maximum weekly benefit from $535 to $350 a week.  The cuts were part of an extensive plan to repay more than $2.6 billion the state unemployment insurance system borrowed during the height of the recession.

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Jill Hudgins, a freelance writer living in Durham, published an important opinion piece in the News & Observer today about finding insurance through Inclusive Health.

Here’s how she begins:

DURHAM — While Republicans rant and rave about the evils of “Obamacare,” many individuals are already benefiting from the reforms. I’m one of them.

I’ve been branded with the scarlet letter “P” for pre-existing condition, denied coverage for years. Thanks to a new program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), I’m now a card-carrying member of the insured.

You should read the entire article to see how Obamacare is providing benefits to people with pre-existing conditions.

Michael R. Lee, a lawyer whose firm has offices throughout North Carolina sent us the following take today on the conservative General Assembly’s current war on injured workers and consumers:

The NCGOP opened the current legislative session with a blitzkrieg assault on the civil rights of North Carolinians. High on its list of legislative priorities was so-called tort “reform” and workers’ compensation “reform.” The tort reform the NCGOP, supported by the NC Chamber of Commerce, big business and the insurance industry, is pushing is contained in House Bill 542 and Senate Bill 33.

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There are those defining issues raised in the General Assembly every so often that pit the state’s most powerful interest groups against the needs of consumers and average citizens. The vote on today’s health benefits exchange is one such issue.

Health reform requires that North Carolina establish a health exchange, although we do not need to pass legislation this session. Blue Cross and Blue Shield was quick to pounce, getting their friends in the General Assembly to sponsor a bill crafted by the company’s attorneys.

This legislation stacks the board governing the exchange with interests that either opposed health reform or are seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This bill puts those groups in charge of implementing reform in the state. This bill strips the exchange of any ability to adapt to changing market conditions. It takes away all ability to provide value to consumers. It is, in short, an insult.

This has nothing to do with political party and everything to do with access.

Consumer groups have pleaded with legislators — Democrat and Republican — not to blatently harm their constituents at the behest of these interest groups. It is astounding how hard you have to work to convince even a small clutch of lawmakers to vote the interests of average people. We don’t enjoy access and we don’t host lavish fundraisers.

All we have on our side are justice, determination, long memories, and a lot of people. After all, every consumer group in the state, and this is a remarkable thing, every consumer group in the state opposes this exchange bill. Every editorial has opposed this bill. Every poll shows broad opposition to this bill.

We haven’t heard anything on the exchange from the Governor’s office. After a brief stab at compromise, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin also has been mum on the issue of the health exchange. His office has said it won’t oppose anything the General Assembly cooks up.

So, here we are. A radically anti-consumer exchange bill will likely pass the House today. The only thing standing between you and a health care system dominated by insurance companies in perpetuity is the Senate and the Governor and the resistance of the people.

The Obama administration’s new health care reform law has Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina looking to cuts it’s costs by 20% over the next four years.

The News & Observer reports that Blue Cross expects to carve about $200 million from its annual $1 billion budget by 2014 by eliminating open positions, cutting jobs through attrition, offering early retirement, and streamlining operations.

“Over time, Blue Cross will be a smaller company,” CEO Brad Wilson said in an interview. “It’s all about change. We’re focused on how we need to change to meet the needs of North Carolina.”

As it tightens its belt, Blue Cross also will work with hospitals and other providers to reduce surging medical costs. That will include some “tough negotiations” with hospital systems and others across the state, Wilson noted.

You may recall back in May the nonprofit insurer began testing a plan to outsource some of its IT work to India.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the state’s largest insurer with 3.7 million consumers in North Carolina.