The Acupuncturists of North Carolina started a Political Action Committee (PAC) to protect your right to access Acupuncture and Asian Medicine in a variety of settings that will be performed only by the most educated and qualified healthcare professionals.
To Accomplish Our Goal We Intend To:
State Treasurer Dale Folwell wants to change how health-care providers are reimbursed by the State Health Plan in an initiative that could save members up to $60 million initially. Folwell's proposal is that the plan will shift on Jan. 1, 2020, from a commercial-based payment model to a reference-based government pricing model based on a percentage of Medicare rates. Medicare provides a standard reimbursement measurement "that is transparent and adjusts for provider differences," Folwell said.
"Reference-based pricing is intended to provide transparency in provider rates by indexing fees to a published schedule." It's an initiative that Folwell says doesn't require legislative approval, although "I have consulted with every branch of government." The proposal is likely to draw pushback from health care providers, such as hospitals and the N.C. Healthcare Association, and from Blue Cross Blue Shield N.C., which is the third-party administrator of the plan.
Blue Cross' duties include processing claims, maintaining an in-network listing of providers, and -- most pivotally -- establishing medical provider rates. The insurer could not be reached for immediate comment on the proposal. Anticipating that response, Folwell said letters explaining the reimbursement strategy have been sent to providers. "Once the new transparent rates are in effect, providers choosing not to partner with the plan will no longer be considered in-network providers for the plan and its members, which will result in higher out-of-pocket costs for members who seek care with out-of-network providers," Folwell said.
The plan is North Carolina's largest purchaser of medical and pharmaceutical services at $3.2 billion in 2017. It represents more than 720,000 teachers, state employees, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel and their dependents, and non-Medicare retirees and their dependents. The strategy represents another prodding by Folwell to Blue Cross as part of his goal of reducing overall expenses by $300 million.
Folwell said part of the impetus for his proposal comes from a 2011 state Auditor's Office report that determined "the Plan is at risk for overpaying medical claims because the plan's auditors do not have access to BCBSNC contracts and cannot independently verify that the plan receives the proper contractual discounts from BCBSNC's provider network." Currently, according to Folwell, Blue Cross and medical providers consider fee schedules -- what they charge -- associated with the plan network to be "confidential."
Steve Lawler, president of the health care association, said that "once again, (Folwell) has proven he has neither an insurance nor a health-care background and is unwilling to work with those who do."
"Health-care provider groups have offered to help customize programs for the State Health Plan that would not only reduce costs, but more importantly, empower employees, retirees and their family members to reach their health care goals. Those who dedicate their life's work to our state deserve more than a spreadsheet approach to care," Lawler said.
Robert Seligson, chief executive of the N.C. Medical Society, said he viewed Folwell's proposal as bringing "drastic changes in healthcare plans (that) often create harmful unintended consequences for patients."
Treasurer spokesman Frank Lester said that "once you reset the reimbursement rates, you really wouldn't be saving that amount year-to-year." Folwell's announcement came with an appeal to health care providers "to help us sustain this benefit for teachers, public safety officers and other public servants." Folwell expects that some providers will see fee increases under the new rate structure, such as primary care, mental health and critical access providers.
Teacher pay and other school issues have dominated the race between two professional educators for the 94th House of Representatives seat. The candidates are Republican Jeffrey Elmore of North Wilkesboro, seeking his fourth two-year House term, and Democrat Dr. Diane Little of Taylorsville. Both were unopposed in the primary.
Little, 69, is a former public school teacher and principal and now works part-time as director of a faculty, staff and student leadership training program she helped establish at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Elmore, 40, of North Wilkesboro teaches art at North Wilkesboro and Mulberry elementary schools. He is co-chairman of both the House Education K-12 Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
Little accused the GOP-controlled General Assembly of waging "an all-out war on public education. She said since Republicans filled the majority of House and Senate seats, the legislature has shifted tax dollars from public schools to private schools through vouchers and has let charter schools increase in number while public school enrollment has dropped. She supports a cap on state funding of private schools and said continued growth of charter and private schools could lead to a return to racial segregation. Little said the GOP-controlled legislature let N.C. public school teacher pay drop to 47th in the nation, took away the due process (tenure) that helped ensure fair treatment of teachers and ended professional development funding and stipends for teachers with master's degrees.
North Carolina's rank in teacher pay rose from 47th in 2013 to 39th now. Pay varies based on local supplements and years in the classroom. Elmore said N.C. teacher pay averages a little over $53,000 after six years in a row of salary hikes. He said the legislature wants to raise the average to $55,000 a year and make it the highest in the Southeast. "We have made sustainable progress. You can make big increases that aren't sustainable."
Elmore said only 11 states have lower average starting teacher pay than North Carolina's $35,000. "In this next session, I want to look into providing signing bonuses" for new teachers, particularly in low wealth counties. He noted the 12 percent supplement paid to board-certified teachers and that the Teaching Fellows program was reinstated after being terminated. "I would like to pay bonuses for teachers with master's degrees in specific subjects." He cited state-funded pilot programs underway in several school districts that pay a higher salary to people in advanced teacher roles and said he supports providing block grants for this statewide.
Little said healthcare, tax and environmental policies in N.C. are among issues in her platform. "There is much more our legislators could do, besides dreaming up proposed constitutional amendments, to draw certain voters to the polls," she added. Little supports expanding Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act so hundreds of thousands more North Carolinians can receive Medicaid. "Every citizen, regardless of socio-economic status or race, has the right to have quality healthcare."
Elmore opposes expanding Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina and said cuts in core medical services have occurred in states where it was expanded due to high volumes of patients trying to utilize a system that pays less for care than actual costs. He said that instead of "rhetoric that is unattainable" due to costs, he prefers the state's current plan to reform Medicaid by utilizing preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and establishing a state-funded high-risk insurance pool.
(Jule Hubbard, WILKES JOURNAL-PATRIOT, 10/05/18)
You may know that it is illegal to use a cell phone to surf the web, tool around with apps or do anything beyond making a phone call while operating a vehicle in North Carolina. But a proposed law modeled after one in Georgia seeks to toughen the laws on cell phone use, which, presently, can be difficult to enforce.
Under a bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, any touching of a cell phone or tablet or other mobile device while you are behind the wheel will get you a ticket. In other words, you won't be allowed to even have it in your hand, not legally. Any calls you make will have to be through "hands-free" technology, such as through your car's Bluetooth connection. Tarte plans to introduce the bill in a 2019 session of the N.C. General Assembly, and appropriately it is nicknamed the Hands-Free bill.
Bill proponents are taking their gospel across the state and speaking at a series of town halls. The most recent was held this week in Raleigh. The third of four town halls has been scheduled for Nov. 14 in Asheville. One speaker at the Raleigh town hall was Tasha Hairton Springs, who crashed when she was sending a text to her daughter while driving 70 mph, according to a TV news account of the meeting.
She survived but now suffers from chronic pain. "That split second of looking down and looking up, and swerving, caused a world of damage," she says. AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety is backing the proposed legislation and put out a news release about the town hall earlier this week.
"We applaud the state of Georgia for its new law that has already brought distracted driving crash numbers down in its short existence," Tiffany Wright, foundation president, said in the release. "We look forward to North Carolina following suit and are proud to champion this legislation in every way that we can." Studies have shown that texting and driving diminishes driving capacity in a similar way to driving drunk. Sixteen states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands make it illegal for drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving.
People generally can get to know top of the ticket candidates well enough to make a decision without proxies. But the farther down the ballot you go, the more political endorsements matter.
With limited name recognition, candidates for General Assembly and local office often rely on more well-known figures and organizations to vouch for them. Endorsements are a key measure of a viable candidate, right there next to fundraising ability. They’re vital to escaping party primaries and getting to November.
That’s why if you hit any candidate’s campaign website, you’re sure to see a section riddled with logos containing all their endorsements.
Sometimes it’s easy to figure out what an endorsing body cares about, sometimes not. And some endorsements matter more than others.
To help you make sense of it all, we’ve collected some of the more important endorsing bodies in North Carolina state and local office.
Here are 16 of the endorsements that truly matter in North Carolina politics.
A Republican in a tight race for the N.C. Senate has picked up an unusual endorsement in this polarized, partisan climate. Sen. Joel Ford, D-Mecklenburg, is featured in a new ad that's set to start airing this week for Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg. Ford, who ran for Charlotte mayor unsuccessfully in 2016 and lost his primary race this year, represents part of north Charlotte. "Jeff's a friend," said Ford. "As a friend, he asked me for help, and I feel comfortable providing that help, based upon ... his integrity and his service for the state of North Carolina."
The ad will start airing Tuesday on cable channels in Mecklenburg County, Tarte campaign adviser Larry Shaheen said, as well as on digital platforms. The ad buy is in the six figures and could increase from there.
Ford's endorsement comes as North Carolina Democrats have been working hard to flip seats in the state legislature come November. Led by Democratic figures such as Gov. Roy Cooper and Mecklenburg Sen. Jeff Jackson, "Break the Supermajority" has been a rallying cry for candidates seeking to unseat Republicans this year. To bust up Republicans' veto-proof margins in the legislature, Democrats need to pick up four House seats or six Senate seats. Tarte's seat is seen by Democrats as one of the most flippable, in large part because he's running in a redrawn district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. His opponent Natasha Marcus had more cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, the most recent available snapshot: $156,000 compared to almost $138,000 for Tarte.
In a statement, Marcus said she's the better candidate to represent the district and has the support of local Democrats. "My opponent is one of the most right-wing members of the N.C. Senate and Mr. Ford, although he claims to be a Democrat, voted overwhelmingly with my opponent and the GOP," Marcus said. "Mr. Ford lost both his primary race for N.C. Senate and his mayoral race by double digits. My supporters, like (Rep.) Chaz Beasley and Jeff Jackson, either currently represent or have represented parts of Senate District 41 and that will matter much more when it comes to the voters."
Ford said his endorsement of Tarte, in which he praises the senator on issues such as fighting the Interstate 77 toll lanes, shouldn't be seen in the context of Democrat's larger "Break the supermajority" effort. Ford said he's backing Tarte because he thinks he'll do the best job of representing the district. "Absolutely not," he said. "It's community over party."
(Ely Portillo, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/10/18)
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