State health officials are expected to give lawmakers an update Tuesday about how NCTracks, a new and expensive Medicaid billing system, is performing. Doctors, hospitals, medical device providers and other others have complained for four months that the new Medicaid system isn’t paying them as quickly as they should. Legislators peppered state Department of Health and Human Services leaders at last month’s meeting about complaints concerning delayed or rejected claims, unhelpful call center workers and complicated medical coding. Agency leaders said they were working to fix problems but said some defects would take up to six months to resolve.
Gov. Pat McCrory drew more than 200 questions and comments in the 30 minutes he spent on a Facebook question-and-answer Monday evening, but he replied to just six. His limited interactions drew scorn from posters on his Facebook page but the governor’s office declared it "successful" in a statement afterward.
Talking Points Memo: GOP Completes Mass Filibuster Of Three Top Obama Judges
Senate Republicans on Monday sustained a filibuster of a third consecutive nominee to the second most powerful federal court, putting Democrats in a bind between surrendering on a high priority and threatening to reform the filibuster with the "nuclear option." A procedural vote to advance the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals received 53 votes (short of the 60 needed) and 38 votes against. It was the GOP’s third filibuster in three weeks — they also blocked Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard to the same court, without taking issue with any of their qualifications.
The U.S. Senate on Monday passed the Drug Quality and Security Act, capping well over a year of behind-the-scenes work by Sen. Richard Burr. Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem, and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado were the lead authors of a provision in the law that will establish a system to track prescription drugs from the time they’re manufactured to when they’re sold at a drugstore, making recalls easier. Lawmakers say it’s the first major improvement in securing the prescription drug supply chain in 25 years. The law also will improve oversight and clarify laws that protect the safety of compounded drugs. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
More than four years after initiating an all-out war to block — and then destroy — what they derisively labeled "Obamacare," Republican leaders remain at a loss on how they’d replace the law if their dream of repealing it should ever come true. Even as conservative health wonks plead with their party to get serious about an alternative, the GOP’s headlong pursuit of its Obamacare whale is narrowing its already scant options in devising a bill that fixes the glaring market failures in the system and can satisfy its base. "Repeal and replace," as the slogan went, has effectively morphed into "repeal … and then we’ll consider doing something but we’re not sure what."
Though talks between cochairs Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are ongoing, it is becoming clear that Republicans are growing less concerned about reaching an agreement ahead of the Dec. 13 deadline, potentially putting Congress on a path toward another last-minute deal to keep the government functioning. The current continuing resolution expires Jan. 15. As Allison put it, “If we don’t do anything, the government doesn’t shut down, there’s not a second sequester that hits, there’s not a debt limit, so if we fail to reach an agreement by December 13, the world keeps spinning and everything’s fine.” Still, some say the expectations remain. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., another member of the conference committee, said Monday that he wasn’t so sure that pressure on Republicans was lessening. “I thought there was always pressure to do something before the 13th of December, irrespective of what happened in the intervening time. I still feel the pressure is on all of us to do something before December 13th.”
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan wrapped up a difficult week in which she took heat for both defending and criticizing the health care overhaul by returning to North Carolina to get fundraising help Friday from Vice President Joe Biden.
Rockingham County’s lead prosecutor, Phil Berger Jr., said Monday that he will formally announce Wednesday his intention to run for North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Durham, Orange and Person counties.Rep. Howard Coble, who has held the seat for decades, said last week that he is retiring when his term ends in 2014. Berger, the Republican district attorney of Rockingham County and son of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, has openly expressed interest in Coble’s congressional seat before but pledged never to run against the veteran lawmaker.
Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. will announce his congressional run Wednesday morning, campaign manager Dallas Woodhouse said Monday. Berger will follow that announcement, planned in Rockingham County, with a two-day tour of the 6th District, where long-time U.S. Rep. Howard Coble is retiring at the end of this term. Berger, a Republican and the son of N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger Sr., had said he planned to run if Coble retires. Berger is probably one of the early front runners, given his father’s connections and his name recognition, fundraising ability and political savvy.
Daily Tarheel: Biden attends Hagan fundraiser at UNC
Vice President Joe Biden was on campus Friday, raising money for Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. The location of Biden’s visit wasn’t announced ahead of time, but Stadium Drive was closed to all traffic “for a special event.” Police lined the sidewalks along Stadium, preventing people from getting close to the Alumni Center. The private fundraiser was for Hagan’s re-election campaign, along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. According to a White House pool report, the top-priced ticket for the fundraiser cost $10,000 and included a photo and special host reception. The lowest-priced ticket was $500. According to the pool report, Biden was introduced by Hagan and began speaking at 1:46 p.m. He criticized North Carolina for not expanding Medicaid and referenced the Republican-dominated politics of the state. “You lead and you lead the South and Middle Atlantic states, and then you go through a period of what you have in Raleigh right now,” he said. “But you always come back. You always come back better.”
To stand a chance of netting the six seats needed to win control of the Senate next year, both sides agree that Republicans almost certainly must take down Alaska incumbent Mark Begich. As one of four Democratic senators up for re-election in Republican-leaning states, Begich has vulnerabilities that have become even more pronounced amid the disastrous rollout of the Accordable Care Act, for which he voted nearly four years ago. After defeating scandal-tarnished Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 by less than 4,000 votes, Begich now faces a much tougher environment in 2014.
Democrats are launching new web ads focused on Republican efforts to craft an agenda for the next year, charging the blank slate they’re working from is evidence the GOP has little to offer voters. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hitting 30 incumbent Republicans with Google search ads, shared first with The Hill, that direct voters looking for information on their representative to 2014RepublicanAgenda.com.
The Phil Gingrey’s campaign for U.S. Senate took a blow on Monday, as four top staffers resigned. General consultant Chip Lake, who once served as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, confirmed his departure via email. "I have nothing but respect for Phil Gingrey. We were just at a crossroads and I thought it would be better for both parties to move on. I wish him nothing but the best," he wrote. The departure comes only a week after he became the first GOP candidate in the Senate contest to launch a TV ad, in which he promised to repeal Obamacare in his first term or “go home.”
The Hill: First lady fundraises for female candidates
Michelle Obama raised funds Monday for female Democratic Senate candidates in New York. We are just six seats away from losing the Senate — just six. That’s how close these midterm elections are," the first lady said in her remarks. She implored the crowd to back Michelle Nunn in Georgia; Natalie Tennant in West Virginia; Alison Lundergan Grimes, who’s challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who’s feeling the heat from speculation former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will move to New Hampshire and challenge her; and Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who are top Republican targets. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sees all six races as vital to the party’s hopes of retaining the Senate.
‘There are two cable-catnip aspects to this race. One was the intra-GOP fight between two political families that had heretofore gotten along following Cheney’s announcement that she would challenge Enzi, and the second is the soap opera between Liz Cheney and her younger sister, Mary Cheney. The former Cheney has come out strongly against same-sex marriage, while the latter Cheney, and her wife, are (obviously) in favor. Democrats are taking great delight in watching all of this, but this isn’t why this contest is of interest to me. The conventional wisdom in both Wyoming and Washington is that the 69-year-old Enzi is a heavy favorite to win the Aug. 12 primary. Indeed, polling by The Wickers Group for a pro-Enzi super PAC shows him with a 52-point lead over his 47-year-old opponent—69 to 17 percent. The same firm had a 40-point Enzi lead in August, 61 to 21 percent. A large (by Wyoming standards) super-PAC ad buy attacking Cheney could possibly explain the difference in the two polls, because they were conducted by the same firm.
A gathering of Washington’s most important military leaders doesn’t seem like the obvious place to champion the cause of increasing women’s power around the world. Nor does Hillary Clinton seem like the obvious choice for an award from the National Defense University. But in accepting the American Patriot Award — presented annually to honor leaders who have "strengthened America’s strategic interests and advanced global security" — the former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady used the stage Thursday to argue for more women in positions of power. For 20 minutes Clinton used her Yale Law School training to lay out a convincing case that women are critical to solving the world’s problems, citing women’s achievements in resolving conflicts in places like Liberia, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda. "Over and over, in country after country, women have proven themselves a powerful source for peace, even in places where their political power is slight or nonexistent," she told the crowd.
Dome: Attorney General Roy Cooper says state should expand Medicaid
State Attorney General Roy Cooper said the state should reconsider its decision to not expand Medicaid, saying Republicans “put politics over policy” to deny the state financial benefits and working poor people health insurance. Speaking to reporters and journalism students at UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday, Cooper enumerated his disagreements with the GOP-run legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The differences are many, but he called the decision not to expand Medicaid, the government insurance for the poor, elderly and disabled, “the most perplexing decision of all.”
Despite the disastrous rollout of the federal government’s healthcare website, enrollment is surging in many states as tens of thousands of consumers sign up for insurance plans made available by President Obama’s health law. A number of states that use their own systems, including California, are on track to hit enrollment targets for 2014 because of a sharp increase in November, according to state officials. "What we are seeing is incredible momentum," said Peter Lee, director of Covered California, the nation’s largest state insurance marketplace, which accounted for a third of all enrollments nationally in October. California — which enrolled about 31,000 people in health plans last month — nearly doubled that in the first two weeks of this month.
Think America has the best health-care system in the world? Americans don’t. When the Commonwealth Fund surveyed residents of different health-care systems, Americans proved a whole lot less happy with their health-care system than anyone else did. The study also looked at costs, wait times, barriers to access, quality measures, and much more. Those more “objective” measures of health quality don’t come out looking so good for the U.S., either.
The 56% of U.S. adults who now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage continues to reflect a record high. Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare. The most recent data were collected in Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 7-10. The percentage of U.S. adults who said it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have healthcare coverage peaked at 69% in 2006. Attitudes began to shift significantly in 2007, and continued to change through the time President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Americans who feel healthcare coverage is not the federal government’s responsibility have been in the clear majority the past two years.
Slate: The Acolyte of Wisconsin’s Extreme Voter ID Law
Now, Grothman is speaking out on behalf of black Wisconsinites again, this time on the issue of voter ID: Wisconsin Republicans are pushing a bill to end early voting on the weekend. The measure would make it harder for people in the state’s most populous areas to cast a ballot—and it would hit blacks especially hard. But state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a Republican who is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill, told msnbc it’s already easy enough to vote. "Between [early voting], mail absentee, and voting the day of election, you know, I mean anybody who can’t vote with all those options, they’ve really got a problem," he said. "I really don’t think they care that much about voting in the first place, right?" Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been called the most restrictive in the country, though Texas and Kansas (which requires proof of citizenship) are close runners-up. A challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law at the state supreme court concluded last week, but the ruling won’t likely come until early next year.
Some of the most influential business leaders in North Carolina are coming together to advocate for better public education. The group includes Ann Goodnight, wife ofSAS Institute founder Jim Goodnight and a longtime education supporter, and Brad Wilson, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The group wants to bring a business voice to the table on all things public education, says Walter McDowell, a retired Wachovia executive. “We just think business needs to play a more active role,” he says. The group calls itself BEST NC, which stands for Business for Educational Success and Transformation, though it is technically incorporated as “NC Business Leaders for Education.” It formed as a 501(c)(3) and as such is not politically motivated, McDowell says.
Daily Tarheel: Sales tax will apply to meal plans
Any New Year’s resolutions about keeping a careful budget will meet fresh obstacles in January, when students will begin to pay a 7.5 percent tax on meal plans and tickets to events across campus. Meal plans and event tickets sold on North Carolina university campuses were formerly exempt from the state’s 6.75 percent sales tax, but the N.C. General Assembly repealed that exemption over the summer. The change takes effect Jan. 1. Each county may set its own rate in addition to the statewide 6.75 percent. In Orange County, the tax will be 7.5 percent. The increase in UNC’s meal plan costs will directly reflect this change.
John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate whose political career was derailed by a sex scandal that transfixed the nation, is returning to what initially thrust him into the public spotlight: practicing law. In a Monday afternoon interview with The News & Observer, Edwards said he is reuniting with his former law partner, prominent trial lawyer David Kirby, to form the law firm Edwards Kirby. Edwards, who at 60 retains the boyish good looks that were such an asset during his years in politics, talked enthusiastically about returning to the courtroom and fighting well-heeled defendants on behalf of people who’ve been wronged.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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