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Morning Memo: North Carolina as a model for the national GOP?

N.C. AS A MODEL FOR THE NATIONAL GOP? For most Republicans, November was grim. But in North Carolina it was a happier story. “North Carolina could be a model for ‘red state’ resurgence,” says Marc Rotterman, a GOP strategist from Raleigh.

North Carolina Republicans will showcase their performance this week to the Republican National Committee, which starts its three-day winter meeting Wednesday at the Westin in uptown. A presentation scheduled for Thursday is called “Success in N.C.: A Blueprint for the Future.” But how much of that blueprint can be replicated is debatable.

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news and analysis. Click below to read more.***

State gets a $152 million break

The federal goverment will cut the state's Medicare prescription drug bill by $152 million, according to Gov. Bev Perdue. 

The $152 million is the state's share of the $4.3 billion in temporary Medicare cost cuts announced this week. 

Under a federal law passed in 2003, the states help pay Medicare prescription drug costs for people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The states' share of those costs are called "clawback payments."

As she announced the reductions this week, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the money the states save can be used to help pay for Medicaid. 

Medicaid is the fastest-growing part of the state budget, according to a recent think-tank study.

According to the federal government's calculations, the state will pay $400.6 million in clawback payments instead of $552.9 million. 

The reductions will apply to the period from Oct. 1, 2008 to the end of this year. The money to cover the cost is coming from the federal stimulus package. 

The state's Medicaid budget was on track to be $250 million in the red by the end of the year.  

Health care reform, Durham-style

For 15 years, pharmacists at a Durham nonprofit have helped older, low-income people take the right prescription drugs, in the right amounts at the right times.

But the job of Senior PharmAssist doesn't end there. The agency also works to keep clients from taking prescription drugs in ways that can actually harm or kill them -- through bad interactions with other drugs, food or medical conditions.

Sounds pretty basic, but such precautions on a national scale could save more than $20 billion annually in unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency care, according to one estimate. That's the reason some advocates and health professionals say national health-care reform should include approaches like that of Senior PharmAssist, which coordinates clients' care with doctors and social workers. (N&O)

Obama: drug costs part of debate

N.C. Sen. Bill Purcell rose to ask President Barack Obama a question about prescription drugs.

Purcell is a primary care physician and said his patients sometimes struggle to pay for the medicine they need to get better.

"What can we do about the high cost of medicine in America?" he asked.

Obama said that drugs cost 77 percent more in America than in any other country. Research and development as well as marketing costs play into that disparity, Obama said.

"Basically the pharmaceutical industry can get away with it," he said.

Obama said he would push for allowing Medicare to negotiate for the price of prescription drugs. He also said he would want to see debate about how long drug patents should last. Right now, pharmaceutical companies can hold a patent for 12 years. He would consider lowering that to seven years.

"There's no reason why we should not be able to at least pay in the ball park of what other countries are paying for the exact same drug," Obama said.

N.C. may get drug list

North Carolina is one of six states that do not have a "preferred drug list."

By setting limits on what drugs can be prescribed for Medicaid recipients, the measure would cost drug companies millions, but it would also save the state $28 million a year.

For years, attempts to create such a list have failed at the legislature, but the severity of next year's $4.5 billion budget shortfall may finally push for the change.

When the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its budget Tuesday, it included such a plan.

Adam Searing, director of the Health Access Coalition, says that he's lost many battles before when pressing legislators for the drug list.

"The pharmaceutical industry is enormously politically powerful in North Carolina," he said. (N&O)

Grant puts prescription info online

A new grant will allow consumers to access prescription information online.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said today that a settlement with the world's largest pharmaceutical company will fund the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs program and Web site. The grant is the 29th in a series that attorney generals from across the country have made to give consumers balanced information about drugs.

The Web site will allow consumers to compare prices and safety ratings for drugs used to treat dozens of medical conditions.

"People need to know a lot more about prescription drugs than what TV ads tell them," Cooper said in a statement. "This will be a source for consumers to get drug information they can discuss with their doctor."

Edwards' plan for older Americans

John Edwards wants to help older Americans.

Edwards this morning released his "Declaration of Independence" for older Americans, promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, make prescription drugs more affordable, protect seniors from predatory lending and offer more choices in long-term care.

Americans are living longer than ever before - but our social policies haven’t changed to reflect this shift. Our housing policies too often force seniors to choose between isolation or institutionalization and our health care system is set up to treat the worst problems instead of promoting health and quality of life. We must fix the broken system in Washington that has not done more to address these issues.

The full text of Edwards's "Declaration of Independence" after the jump.

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