NC senators, Art Pope trade barbs over Medicaid

jneff@newsobserver.comJune 25, 2014 

POPE-NE-062514-RTW

State Budget Director Art Pope watches from the porch of the Executive Mansion as Gov. Pat McCrory holds a press conference Wednesday in Raleigh.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Medicaid is the biggest stumbling block in the budget negotiations. There’s been a debate over how much money is needed, as well as some sharp exchanges between the Senate and State Budget Director Art Pope. Pope complained that a Senate spokesman wrongly accused him of withholding budget information; the Senate in turn threatened to subpoena Pope if he didn’t appear at a committee meeting Thursday morning.

The Senate was miffed last week when neither Pope nor staffers from the Department of Health and Human Services showed up at at Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

On Tuesday, Pope wrote a sharply worded letter to Senate budget leaders. He complained that Amy Auth, a Senate spokeswoman, wrongly told the media that Pope’s office had been withholding “real numbers on Medicaid and the lottery.”

One key issue is how much additional money will be needed for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

The uncertainty comes from two backlogs.

There is a backlog of Medicaid applications. For those whose applications are eventually approved, the state will be on the hook for services provided from the date of application.

There is also a backlog of claims filed by hospitals, doctors and other providers.

The Senate ramped up the pressure on Wednesday when they informed Pope they wanted him to appear at an 8:30 a.m. budget committee meeting Thursday, and threatened to subpoena him if he didn’t show.

Pope wrote back that he was happy to attend.

“While it is highly unusual to be holding Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on the budget, during Conference negotiations over the state budget bill, and to receive an invitation without even 24 hour notice, I will be happy to attend your meeting and respond to your requests,” Pope wrote.

Pope requested budgetary information from the Senate and their underlying assumptions.

He also asked how much time he would have at the meeting.

“Depending on the level of detail and amount of documentation you wish to review, it may take several hours, or even a full day,” Pope wrote.

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