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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

Mental health workersMembers of UE local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union, will be holding a demonstration this morning at 10:00 am at NC DHHS headquarters on the old Dorothea Dix Hospital campus at 101 Blair Drive, Raleigh. Workers are demanding that Sec. Aldona Wos meet with the union, extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and also grant workers “Safety, Rights and Raises”, which has become the slogan of their current campaign. Senator Don Davis along with Rev. Curtis Gatewood from the N.C. NAACP and Moral Monday movement plan to speak at the rally. UE 150 is inviting the public and all supporters to attend.

Organizer Dante Strobino explains the genesis of the event and some of the indignities visited upon state mental health workers in the following essay.

State mental health workers launch campaign for Safety, Rights and Raises
By Dante Strobino

Jessica Brandon, a mother of three whose 40-year-old husband has had four heart attacks, is the sole wage earner in her family. For the past 5 ½ years she has worked as a healthcare technician at Central Regional Hospital in Butner, North Carolina, one of three state psychiatric hospitals. After paying essential bills for the family, Brandon said, she typically has less than $40 left for the month. 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

Like a lot of 21st Century North Carolinians, Gov. Pat McCrory is a not a native of the state. He was actually born in Ohio and moved here as a kid. And while it’s hard to imagine him ever discussing this matter much in public, here’s at least one instance in which he might do well to highlight that connection and, indeed, follow the lead of his native state and its conservative Republican governor.

As Talking Points Memo pointed out this morning, the challenges of actually governing appear to be having a positive impact on John Kasich — the one-time fire-breathing conservative congressman and now, suddenly, reasonable Governor of the Buckeye state: Read More

In case you missed it, this Fayetteville Observer editorial helps explain the remarkable blindness of the Pope/Tillis/Berger/McCrory decision to deny health insurance to a half-million North Carolinians by refusing to allow the expansion of Medicaid at a comparatively tiny cost to the state. After documenting the disastrous impact the decision is having on poorer, rural hospitals like Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton, the editorial concludes this way:

“The rationale for the legislature’s decision was that Medicaid is “broken” because its cost rose as more people sought assistance while recovery from a record recession lagged.

The illogic of that position must be drawing some political heat. This week Senate and House leaders took to filming a protest and doing head counts of protesters and journalists – small-bore politics.

‘An expansion of Medicaid would cost North Carolina taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through 2021,’ they said in a joint release.

Probably so. But not expanding Medicaid is going to cost us billions, much sooner. If it leaves a landscape strewn with closed, underfunded or understaffed hospitals, that will be the heaviest cost of all.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.