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Trying to stop Medicaid bill, AARP focuses on Gov. McCrory

The Senate considers a bill to block the expansion of Medicaid to roughly 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians but AARP of North Carolina is focusing its attention on Gov. Pat McCrory.

The group ran full-page advertisements in the Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem newspapers Monday (see link below) to urge its members and supporters to call the Republican governor and tell him: "Don't turn your back on hard working North Carolinians. Support Medicaid expansion."

Mary Bethel, a lobbyist for the AARP, said called the bill in the Senate a freight train moving fast down the tracks. But she hopes the governor will feel pressured to influence the action in the N.C. House and possibly quash the bill. McCrory has yet to take a position on the bill but he recently said expansion is not a possibility until existing problems with the system are corrected.


Continued pressure on legislators over Medicaid

Health care providers and advocates for the sick and elderly are trying to keep the pressure on legislators to fill a $139 million hole in the state Medicaid budget.

Mary Bethel, an AARP lobbyist, read part of a statement signed by 24 groups at a legislative committee meeting today.

Medicaid recipients need assurances that their health care won't be eliminated, she said.

The statement says, "It is imperative that the General Assembly provide funding to the Department of Health and Human Services to plug the $139 million Medicaid shortfall. Medicaid recipients and those whose livelihood relies on Medicaid as a funding source are dependent on this being done immediately."

AARP North Carolina, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the N.C. Justice Center were among the organizations that signed on to the statement.

Republican legislators have been arguing with the state Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Bev Perdue's office over how to cover the shortfall.

Perdue's administration says leading House Republicans have gone back on their promise to cover it.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, did not respond directly to this afternoon's statement, but said earlier in the meeting that it impractical for the state to cut provider rates enough and eliminate enough services to make up for the shortfall.

"Some people who've been worried about that should not be," he said.

Most of the shortage is for Medicaid liabilities the state Department of Health and Human Services usually leaves out of its budget, he said. "There's a cash-flow problem that agency has."

Dollar said legislators are willing to work with Perdue's office to solve the problem. "We've extended a hand for some time to the governor's office to work with the governor on this issue," he said. "We've gotten a lot of politics in return."

Pension review to launch

North Carolina's pension system for state and local government employees is about to get a fresh examination.

A 13-member commission, appointed by State Treasurer Janet Cowell, will hold its first meeting in January to evaluate what changes need to be made in the system that serves 820,000 North Carolina including teachers, state employees, firefighters, police officers and other public workers, Rob Christensen reports.

Cowell appointed members of the Future of Retirement Study Commission in December. The commission was created in October by the boards of trustees of the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System and the Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System. The chairman is Robert Clark, a professor of management and economics at N.C. State University who specializes in aging and labor economics and pension and retirement policies.

Cowell said said the current pension system was designed in 1963 and had not been significantly changed since then. Pension systems across the country have drawn attention during the recession as funding levels have dropped and many private sector employee have been forced to delay retirement.

The first meeting will be held 9 a.m. January 25 in the Dawson Conference Room of the Albermarle Building.

Committee members include Sen. Richard Stevens of Cary; Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh; Charles Abernathy, county manager for McDowell County; Mary Bethel, co-director for AARP North Carolina; Randy Byrd, criminal investigations supervisor for the Cary police; Joseph Coletti, a fiscal analyst for the John Locke Foundation; Monda Griggs, a curriculum specialist for high schools; Darleen Johns, a Raleigh business woman; Charles Johnson, vice president of the State Employees Association of North Carolina; Shirley Morrison, human resources officer for Guilford County School; Aaron Noble, human resources director for the City of Burlington and Charles Perusse, state budget director.

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