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Puppy millsFew developments are surprising these days in the through-the-looking glass world of the North Carolina General Assembly, but the recent developments surrounding “puppy mills” legislation takes a very large cake.

As was reported last week in multiple places, one of the North Carolina Senate’s most powerful members, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, issued a statement in which he said that the Senate would not move legislation on this subject in 2014 because of its objection to the “tactics” of bill supporters — specifically the fact that a supporter meeting with Senator Bill Rabon openly recorded the Senator’s inflammatory comments on the subject and then made them public.

This was apparently not an idle threat by Apodaca. Yesterday, N.C. Policy Watch obtained an email sent by another lawmaker (Senator Bill Cook of Beaufort County) to a concerned constituent in which he recited Apodaca’s threat verbatim (see the bottom of this post for the full text). Read More

Medicaid expansionThe drumbeat calling on state leaders to reverse course and accept federal Medicaid dollars in order to provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of poor North Carolinians continues to grow louder and louder.

As this morning’s Greensboro News & Record editorial argues (after citing a new report by the accounting firm Jackson-Hewitt that the failure to expand will lead to tens of millions of dollars in tax penalties for North Carolina businesses):

“A society and an economy are stronger when people are healthier. Expanding Medicaid coverage could help North Carolina achieve that goal. If that could spare employers tens of millions of dollars in tax penalties at the same time, our pro-business governor should explore that opportunity.”

Meanwhile, be sure to check out this essay by Duke writer and doctor Laura Musselwhite in  Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she points out: Read More

Alex Kotch(Cross-posted from the website Vocativ.com)

Obamacare is actually good. No, really

By Alex Kotch

I’m a low-income PhD student with a shaky health history and limited earning capacity. The Affordable Care Act should improve my quality of life. But will it?

This isn’t the answer you tend to hear on the news, but yeah, it will. Dramatically.

Here’s my background. I’m a 30-year-old, soon-to-be PhD graduate with an expected income in 2014, the first year of Obamacare, not much above the minimum wage. My $190-a-month student health plan runs out the day Obamacare starts. I’m a nonsmoker, but I have had some serious health issues in the past. In the eyes of health insurers, I’m hardly a solid bet. So Obamacare should, if it’s fit for purpose, help me out of a bind when I go to change my plan. Let’s see if that holds up. Read More

In some ways, you have to hand it to the McCrory administration for the way it has manipulated messages and public opinion on the state’s health insurance system for poor people, Medicaid.

The McCrory team came into office with a cynical and ideologically-based plan to sell off what has been a successful public program to private corporations. The key to making such a plan politically feasible, therefore, was to convince the news media and the public that the program was somehow “broken.” How better to do this than to repeatedly allege and attempt to show that the program had supposedly massive cost overruns?

And so the P.R. campaign began. Following up on the decision of the conservative General Assembly to demand unreasonable program savings and then complain about “runaway expenses” when the absurd targets weren’t met, the administration helped generate new “audit” numbers that supposedly showed a similar trend — all, of course, the fault of past Democratic governors.

For months the plan worked well as right-wing politicians and think tanks and numerous reporters dutifully repeated the “Medicaid is broken” mantra despite ample evidence to the contrary. The dishonest rap had the added bonus of helping to justify the decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It even provided a convenient excuse for dozens of other draconian budget cut to education and other essential services.

Now, however, the truth is starting to come out and the P.R. plan is faltering. Read More

McCrory contradictionsAs reported in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, a new report issued by the McCrory administration yesterday appears to directly contradict earlier statements by the administration and its supporters about the benefits of Medicaid expansion for the state.

The new report, “The Impact of the Military on North Carolina,” finds that federal military spending produces enormous economic benefits for North Carolina. According to a press release issued from the Governor’s office touting the report:

“The military supports 540,000 jobs, including 340,000 in the private sector, according to a new report released today by the N.C. Department of Commerce. The report also found the military boosts the state’s personal income by more than $30 billion.
 
The study, released by the Labor & Economic Analysis Division, concludes the military accounts for nearly 10 percent of all economic activity in North Carolina.”

According to the press release (and the report itself) these findings were calculated by a private research group known as Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) which made use of its complex economic modeling system known as “Policy Insight-Plus” or “PI+” to develop its findings.    

Interestingly, however, the administration has demonstrated outright hostility to the use of the REMI PI+ model when it comes to the benefits of Medicaid expansion. Read More