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Morning Memo: McCrory administration slanted Medicaid report

McCRORY BOOED IN HIS HOMETOWN: For his 69th birthday party, Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends, Jim Morrill reports. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos. It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor. This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally introduced, many in the audience booed.

MUST-READ: For months, members of the McCrory administration have maintained that the state’s Medicaid program is "broken." But in the first of a two-part investigation, North Carolina Health News shows McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light. Read it here.

***More from the N.C. Health News story and an important notice to readers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

State names interim Medicaid director

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services named an acting Medicaid director with Carol Steckel leaving the agency.

Sandy Terrell, the Medicaid chief operating officer, will serve in the role as the department searches for a permanent replacement, Secretary Aldona Wos announced Friday. She will start Oct. 11, when Steckel's resignation is effective. "Since 2010, Sandy has been an integral part of the (Division of Medical Assistance) organization, and her role as chief operating officer at Medicaid uniquely qualifies her to assist in this transition," Wos said in a statement.

Steckel announced her departure earlier this week to work for a Florida-based company that wants the state's business.

Morning Memo: Democrats hit GOP on education in new ad campaign

SEE IT HERE FIRST: N.C. Democrats launch ad campaign hitting GOP on education: The headline "Republican leadership has failed teachers in North Carolina" is hitting newspapers across the state this week in full-page advertisements paid for by the N.C. Democratic Party. The ads target 17 legislative districts (eight Senate, nine House) and criticize Republicans for not increasing teacher pay, forcing class size increases, eliminating some teacher assistants, ending the back-to-school tax holiday, cutting money for textbooks and supplies, taking away the graduate school bonus for (future) teachers and allowing private school vouchers.

"We’re putting Gov. McCrory and Republican legislators on notice that their assault on public education is not going unnoticed," said Robert Dempsey, the party's executive director.

***See the ad and get a list of the targeted lawmakers below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***


Morning Memo: GOP Senate hopefuls take hard line on defunding Obamacare

North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates are taking a hard line on federal budget negotiations – a position that puts them at odds with the state’s lone GOP senator, Richard Burr.

Four Republican candidates said Monday they support efforts to defund the federal health care act, apparently even if those efforts lead to a government shutdown. Their comments came the same day state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced he won’t join those running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

***Read more from the GOP candidates -- reaction to Berger's decision -- below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: NCGA studies Colo. school choice; DHHS execs see pay bump

NCGA STAFF EXAMINES COLORADO SCHOOL CHOICE: Three employees of the General Assembly went to Douglas County, Colo., for nearly a week in June to examine that county’s school funding model and determine the feasibility of trying something similar in North Carolina.

The Douglas County school district, the third largest in Colorado, is known for its emphasis on school choice and has pursued major – and often controversial – education reforms in recent years. Read more here.

***Get a full wrap on North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to***

State Medicaid employee gag orders

If a Medicaid employees greet you from now on with a nod and a smile but refuse to talk, they're not being rude. They're afraid for their jobs.

Over the last six weeks employees with the state Medicaid office have received a series of gag orders from Medicaid director Carol Steckel and managers.

The most recent came from Steckel, who wrote in an email Thursday that Medicaid staff should stop talking to legislative staff.

This appears to be a repeated order, since the subject on the email is "One more time."

"Please make sure EVERYONE in your area knows that any and ALL questions posed by anyone in the legislative body (policy and fiscal), including former employees, should be routed through (1) Rocky Thompson if it is legislative in nature and/or (2) Rick Friedman if it is budget/finance related.

"The next time someone responds inappropriately there will be significant personnel actions taken for both the supervisor and the person not complying with this policy."

New state Medicaid director coming from Louisiana

Carol Steckel is the new director of the Medicaid office. She'll be coming from Louisiana, where she's director of the Center for Health Care Innovation at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

She starts her new job on Jan. 22 at a salary of $210,000 a year.

Steckel will be in charge of the state Division of Medical Assistance, which runs the state's $12 billion Medicaid program. The government health insurance program covers about 1.8 million residents.

"Ms. Steckel has an extensive background in health policy and government, having served as commissioner of the Alabama Medicaid Agency and spearheading the state of Louisiana's response to the Affordable Care Act," said state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

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