Morning Memo: GOP uses video to hit Hagan on health care law

Posted by John Frank on October 31, 2013 

As discussed in earlier posts, Republicans are using the ongoing troubles and revelations about the federal health insurance program to tarnish U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat seeking re-election in 2014. The GOP is working hard to make so-called Obamacare the central issue of the campaign. And one thing that will help their case: a video of Hagan defending the law. And not just defending the law, but the part about people getting to keep their health insurance plans.

"The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee crafted a bill that ensures that people who like their insurance and their doctors keep them," Hagan said in a Senate floor speech from Sept. 2009 as the bill was being crafted. Watch the video being promoted by Republicans. And expect to see it on a TV near you a year from now at the height of the election given the health care law's unpopularity in North Carolina.

Hagan's statement eventually proved untrue because some plans didn't meet the specifications of the Affordable Care Act and were canceled and replaced by more robust coverage.

In North Carolina, we know a bit about what this means. From a recent N&O article: Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman said the company notified customers at the time about the new health care law’s “grandfather” clause, but about 160,000 made changes or bought coverage during the past 3 1/2 years. Blue Cross in recent weeks has alerted those customers that the obsolete policies would be discontinued in 2014.

In its letters, the company also cited a premium for a comparable policy, which in some cases is hundreds of dollars a month more than what customers are paying now.

Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas is also selling plans but did not comment for the article. Even though the number is small in comparison to the more than 1 million residents expected to buy insurance on the exchange, it's appears enough for the GOP to push it's point.

*** Trick or treating tonight? Don’t forget the big house on the hill. Details below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will open the executive mansion doors at 6 p.m. Thursday for Halloween. No word on his costume choice or whether he will be handing out cookies as treats.

SNEAK PEEK AT CIVITAS POLL -- McCrory about as favorable as Obama right now: In a National Research poll for the conservative Civitas Institute set for release Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory's job approval rating among registered voters stands at 46 percent. It's on par with President Barack Obama's approval at 44 percent. Overall, voters are split on the Republican governor with 44 disapproving of his job performance – putting his ratings between the 4 percent margin of error, plus or minus. Obama's disapproval rating is 53 percent.

Check Dome later today for more from the numbers.

SCENE SETTER -- Mel Watt's confirmation faces tough battle. From the Washington Post: The Senate resumed its never-ending war over confirmations this week, as a pair of President Barack Obama’s key nominees appeared headed for white-knuckle votes in the face of a GOP blockade.

With votes slated for Thursday, Senate Republicans were poised to reject by filibuster the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head a major federal housing agency. ...

Watt’s nomination to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, faces the greatest peril. A number of Republicans said in recent days that Watt – the senior member of the House Financial Services Committee – does not have the requisite experience to oversee such a massive agency.

“He is a good man up for the wrong job,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said.

“I get the impression that the nomination is in difficulty,” (John) McCain said. Read more event.

N.C. POLITICAL ANLAYST ISSUES A 2014 FORECAST: From John Davis’ Political Report -- “Political Weather Alert! Dysfunctional government, now the nation’s #1 problem, is creating conditions favorable for the development of severe storms in 2014 capable of producing career-ending political winds and flash floods that have the potential of wiping out the majority parties in a watch area that includes Raleigh, North Carolina and Washington DC.

“Incumbents who have always managed to duck and deflect responsibility for nebulous issues like “the economy” or “deficit spending,” will have a hard time evading the issue of dysfunctional government. They are the dysfunctional government.”

INDY WEEK -- N.C. funeral service board misspends money: The North Carolina Board of Funeral Service wants more money – a lot more – in the form of fees on funeral homes that may be passed on to consumers. But a state audit and an analysis by the INDYsuggest the board has plenty of money but mismanages it – a finding that could force the fee increases to undergo legislative review.

The funeral service board has given double-digit raises to many of its staff, including the wife of the head of a North Carolina funeral industry trade group. This is according to documents obtained by the INDY and public comments from former board staff and a director submitted to a legislative committee.

The funeral board also purchased a $1 million office condo in Raleigh, instead of leasing cheaper space, and spent excessive amounts of money on car allowances for funeral home and crematorium inspectors. Read more here.

MORE HOSPITAL JOB CUTS: From Winston-Salem Journal -- Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital has become the latest Triad hospital to announce job cuts as part of an effort to reduce expenses amid reduced revenue streams. The Elkin hospital told employees Tuesday it is cutting 31 jobs.

Another Surry County community hospital, Northern Hospital, announced Oct. 7 that it had cut 12 to 15 full-time jobs. Another 15 to 18 employees had their work weeks reduced to 35 or 36 hours, while another group of employees was shifted into a different job.

After the cuts were made, Northern has about 625 full-time-equivalent employees. Both hospitals cited Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement reductions as a key factor in their decisions. Read more here.

PEACOCK AND McCRORY: If you read the Charlotte Observer editorial earlier this week endorsing Edwin Peacock in the mayor’s race, you couldn’t help but think a good bit was aimed at Gov. Pat McCrory. And this searing editorial cartoon only confirms the point. See it here.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The N.C. Council for Women and the N.C. Department of Administration’s Center for the Prevention of Family Violence will hold a forum at 2 p.m. Friday in Greenville about the “changing face of women in eastern North Carolina,” highlighting the disparities in opportunities and outcomes in this area. More info.

GOP LAWMAKERS QUESTION TEACHER PROTESTS: State Republican lawmakers and conservative groups are accusing the N.C. Association of Educators of injecting politics into the classroom with Monday’s series of planned protests on funding for public education.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, and Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican, called on state Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate the situation.

COOPER RESPONDS TO GOP: But Cooper, a Democrat, took a jab at the senators. “If the Senate was so concerned about students they wouldn’t have drastically shortchanged our public schools,” Cooper said in a written statement. “I can understand why teachers are beyond frustrated, but I don’t think they should leave the classroom.” Read more here.

"CHOOSE LIFE" PLATE APPEAL HEARING: A federal appeals court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ability to issue license plates that promote an anti-abortion message without offering plates with opposing viewpoints.

THE KEY EXCHANGE: Kathryne Hathcock, an assistant attorney general, presented the government-speech argument to the appeals court Wednesday. “This is about North Carolina’s right to speak for itself,” Hathcock said.

That drew a response from Judge James Wynn of North Carolina, who said, “What you are doing is suppressing speech. It’s troubling.” That prompted Hathcock to present the “Kill the Sea Turtles” argument that has been running through the appellate briefs both sides have filed in the lawsuit. Read more here.

LAWMAKERS SET INTERIM STUDY TOPICS: AP -- Health care competition, Common Core and child abuse and neglect are among topics North Carolina House and Senate leaders agree can be studied formally during breaks in the two-year legislative session.

A General Assembly panel disclosed this week eight joint study committees that are authorized to meet and make recommendations to the full legislature for next spring and for 2015. The House is also permitted to convene an additional dozen study committees.

The combined Senate-House committees include examining K-12 curriculum standards, which includes the Common Core criteria North Carolina has adopted in math and language arts. Another committee will examine state and federal barriers to market-based health care.

House committees also announced Tuesday may examine property owner protections, improving healthy food access and safety and privacy concerns related to drones.

PETA ISN’T PLAYING POSSUM: Not so fast. Even though the governor signed a bill in March allowing it, the infamous Brasstown “possum drop” show might not go on this New Year’s Eve.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed suit in Wake County asking a judge to halt the practice on the grounds that the state Wildlife Resources Commission “lacks the authority to issue anyone a permit or license for the purposes of suspending a terrified wild opossum above a stage in a Plexiglas box and subjecting him or her to the explosive sounds of fireworks and musket fire as well as the blinding glare of floodlights,” according to a PETA news release issued Wednesday.

Last year, PETA won $75,000 in attorney’s fees in its challenge of the commission issuing a permit for the event. The state appealed an administrative law judge’s ruling to Superior Court, but then dropped the appeal.

Meanwhile, legislators passed a bill giving the commission the authority to issue permits. The new law allows wild animals to be held for display by licensed sportsmen, and requires they be returned to the wild at or near where they were captured after the event is over.

EMPLOYMENT SECURITY AGENCY PINCHING PENNIES: Shutting down a high-speed data line that was no longer needed – and wasn't even being used – is saving the state Division of Employment Security $24,882 a month. Switching the call center to an automated answering system reduced the agency's monthly bill for its toll-free number by $30,000. Canceling a single magazine subscription is saving the agency $4,738 a year.

"For everything we fix, there are probably two or three opportunities that we learn about," said Dale Folwell, a former Republican legislator who was named head of Employment Security n March.

Folwell redundantly describes the agency, which collects unemployment taxes from employers and pays unemployment benefits to the jobless, as "broken broken." Read more here.

HAGAN PUSHES FOR LUMBEE RECOGNITION: From the Fayetteville Observer -- After various legislators have spent more than two decades pushing to federally recognize the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan added her support during testimony Wednesday at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"Beyond simple fairness, the issue of Lumbee recognition is critically important to the North Carolina economy, and to counties and communities that have been hardest hit by the recent economic downturn," said Hagan, according to a transcript of her testimony.

Hagan, of North Carolina, introduced the Lumbee Recognition Act with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr in June. In 1956, Congress enacted the Lumbee Act, which recognized the tribe, but denied members access to federal services other federally recognized tribes receive. Read more here.

FRACKING RADIO AD: Want to hear the radio ad being aired by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters Foundation. Hear it here.

RENEE ELLMERS QUESTIONS SEBELIUS: The Republican’s congressional office is promoting this video from the health and human services secretary’s testimony Wednesday on Captiol Hill.

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