Want to know if your hospital is a rip off? Move to North Carolina.

August 28th, 2013 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Archives No Responses

Medicare made waves earlier this year by releasing the prices that hospitals charge for the most common procedures.

North Carolina now wants to take a step further: Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed legislation last week that will require hospitals to publish the prices that they negotiate with insurers.

Pat McCrory speaks to supporters at his election night headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (Chuck Burton/AP)

This data has the potential to be significantly more useful for consumers. The prices that hospitals charge are, essentially, sticker prices. Insurance plans usually negotiate a rate lower than that opening bid. The data that North Carolina will make public is the actual amount that hospitals end up charging health plans for their services. Beginning in June 2014, the state’s Health and Human Services Web site will post that information.

That means that, in North Carolina, someone undergoing surgery could comparison shop between hospitals before making an appointment, seeing where he or she might get the best deal.

This data could become especially important given the trends we’re seeing in the health insurance market: Employers are asking employees to take on a bigger share of their premiums, in the form of much larger deductibles. When individuals are paying out-of- pocket for their care, or even a hefty co-insurance fee, the incentive to shop on price becomes a whole lot stronger.

Right now, shopping on price is really hard; hospitals tend to keep the deals they’ve negotiated with insurers private, seeing that information as a competitive advantage. If they’re getting a health plan to pay a high rate for a given procedure, would they really want the hospital down the street to know.

The data we’ve seen so far on health care prices suggests we’re likely to see pretty significant variation. Data compiled by the private health cost firm Castlight found that, here in the District of Columbia, and MRI can cost anywhere between $400 and $1,800.

Now North Carolina is about to make data like that a whole lot more accessible, possibly changing the way that people there seek health care treatments.

NC now called Too Conservative, after years of corrupt Democrat Rule

August 28th, 2013 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Archives 3 Responses
NC now called Too Conservative, after years of corrupt Democrat Rule

Protests across North Carolina and media scrutiny from across the country over a more conservative bent in N.C. politics stem from a much-needed change in culture, Gov. Pat McCrory told me Monday afternoon during a visit to the Government Center in Charlotte.

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McCrory, a first-term Republican governor and former seven-term Charlotte mayor, said organized opposition by Democratic-leaning political groups and media hyperbole have created a distorted picture of the Tar Heel State. During a 15-minute interview, he dismissed concerns over a recently signed voter ID bill, characterized anger over tighter abortion restrictions as misguided and said he is comfortable bucking liberal and conservative factions alike when warranted.

McCrory came to Charlotte to present the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to former Mecklenburg County commissioner Dan Ramirez. Ramirez, who was diagnosed with ALS last year, became the first local Hispanic elected to political office in 2002.

McCrory had tears in his eyes when he presented the award to Ramirez. The governor took questions from several reporters after the ceremony and then headed to the 15th floor for a visit with the current mayor, Patsy Kinsey. She became mayor last month after fellow Democrat Anthony Foxx resigned. Foxx gave up the office after President Obama chose him to be U.S. secretary of transportation.

Since his last term as mayor ended in 2009, McCrory has been in the Government Center just twice, he told me Monday.

A week ago, crowds estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 people protested at Marshall Park, labeling McCrory a “poster child” for the Tea Party and mocking his recent overture to placate women’s health-care advocates in Raleigh by presenting protesters with a plate of cookies.

“I welcome people who have the ability to protest,” he said Monday. “Heck, I went up to Raleigh one time to protest. Gov. Easley was governor. The only difference was, I didn’t make it a point to get arrested.”

No arrests were made at the Moral Monday protest in Charlotte last week. Three months of Moral Mondays in Raleigh during the General Assembly session led to more than 900 arrests.

McCrory and his Republican allies in the state legislature control both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the governor’s mansion. It marks the first time the GOP has enjoyed this much political power in North Carolina in more than a century.

“We have to recognize that a lot of this is well-planned and well-coordinated — (left-leaning) MoveOn.org and other groups are very active in this well-coordinated event. So I’m going to listen to the thousands, or 2,000 or 3,000 people who protest, but I also have to concentrate on the other 9 million people who live and work and play in North Carolina. I have to make sure we don’t take the one perspective of protesters out of perspective.”

The governor said the rallies seek to preserve the status quo, a philosophy that runs counter to his campaign pledge to revamp state government.

“If we continue the same policies as the past three or four years, we’re going to continue to have the same results,” McCrory said. “And right now, those results aren’t good.”

In July, the North Carolina unemployment rate recently inched upward to 8.9 percent, third-worst in the nation.

McCrory and the legislature approved sharp reductions in unemployment benefits this year. State debt of $2.5 billion to the federal government prompted the shift. Economists and data analysts, including Chapel Hill consultant John Quinterno, questioned the changes in unemployment benefits and called the cuts short-sighted.

“I came to Raleigh to change some things,” McCrory said of his policy battles. “I’m stepping on the toes of both the right and the left, like I did as mayor. It’s not fun. It’s difficult. I’m not doing it to cause pain. I’m doing it to get people to stand up and recognize we have some serious issues that we need to solve. In the meantime, I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in the short eight months I’ve been in office.”

Democrats and, to a lesser extent, Republicans in Raleigh spend too much time trying to keep state government the same, McCrory said. At times during the General Assembly session that ended last month, Republicans fell prey to “that 10 or 20 percent overreach that you didn’t need to do.”

A broad voter ID law signed by the governor drew a rebuke from former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell, a fellow Republican, when Powell spoke last week at a CEO forum in Raleigh that included remarks by the governor, too.

The voter ID bill ends straight-ticket voting, prevents college students from using their school IDs at the polls and shortens the early-voting period. Some experts expect the U.S. Department of Justice to challenge the new law, similar to a legal battle brewing over voter laws in Texas.

I think the media and some of the liberal activists have greatly exaggerated the claims of what North Carolina has done with voter ID,” McCrory said Monday, noting that dozens of states, most with Republican-controlled governments, have passed similar laws. “That’s mainstream. You need an ID to get Sudafed in North Carolina, which was supported by Republicans and Democrats and the attorney general. Requiring the same documents for voting as we do for Sudafed, I think, is common sense. Everyone ought to have some form of ID and, frankly, we’re going to be providing them for free.”

Voters across the state are disappointed in the governor and the legislature of late, according to Raleigh research firm Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning group. McCrory’s approval rating declined to 39 percent in the latest surveys; the General Assembly’s fell to 24 percent. A Republican-friendly polling firm, the Civitas Institute, has also seen drops in the governor’s popularity, though his overall approval ratings hovers near 50 percent in those surveys.

A question about the abortion bill prompted a retort over whether critics have even read the bill, a problem the governor learned first-hand during an earlier remark about voter ID.

“The abortion issue was, again, greatly exaggerated,” he said. “Because the bill that was going to be passed was the one I was going to veto. I think both the right and the left were wrong on this issue. The right, obviously, wrote (the earlier bill) with the clear objective of closing abortion clinics, when it’s legal. I disagreed with that bill. The left turned a blind eye and tried to pretend there were no issues with regard to existing clinics, when in fact there are.”

A recent closing in Asheville makes the case for new rules, the governor said. That clinic has recently re-opened, according to a report by The Associated Press.

McCrory said the bill approved by the General Assembly was a “pragmatic solution.” State Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Mecklenburg Democrat and leader of the local delegation in Raleigh, told me last week the legislation ignored a campaign pledge by McCrory to preserve abortion rights. Women’s health advocates and a number of Democrat-friendly grassroots groups have voiced similar opinions.

Said McCrory: “Those regulations haven’t been written yet, so it’s kind of ironic — I hear the media talk about stringent regulations which will close clinics. (The regulations) haven’t been written yet and they’re going to be written by a doctor, not politicians.”

The new law adds requirements for clinics to perform abortions. McCrory and the GOP have said changes are necessary to ensure safety and proper care. Democrats and other opponents criticize the law as a way to limit access for women seeking an abortion.

“If you read the media, you would think we shut down every clinic, when in fact we haven’t done that,” McCrory said.

Continued uncertainty over who controls Charlotte Douglas International Airport elicited a familiar response from McCrory: Eliminate the politics of the debate, a call that has been ignored by state lawmakers ever since a campaign began over the winter to remove CLT from direct city oversight.

Asked about slipping approval ratings for himself and other Republican leaders, the governor blamed “the PR machine” and mentioned stories about the state’s political environment in The New York Times, The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Huffington Post as examples.

Coverage by those outlets has been slanted, he said.

Those stories “have clearly communicated one viewpoint, and today I’m clearly stating another viewpoint that I doubt will be the headlines in the newspaper. We’ll get the message out.”

As for North Carolina’s national brand or reputation, McCrory said that has always been a concern for him, both as a mayor and now as governor.

Then he took a swipe at his predecessors, Bev Perdue and Mike Easley. Both are Democrats and both were swept up in campaign finance scandals. Perdue defeated McCrory in the 2008 election and served one term before opting against a re-election campaign. Easley served two terms, beginning with the 2000 election.

“Worry about the brand?” McCrory said. “I didn’t hear people worrying about the brand when we were having indictments and people going to prison (former House Speaker Jim Black, a Mecklenburg Democrat) and things of that nature. It’s amazing, when a Republican’s in office and no one’s going to prison or no one being indicted, I’m being asked by the Business Journal about our brand.”

NC’s rightward turn could be a boon for Kay Hagan?

August 27th, 2013 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Archives 5 Responses
NC’s rightward turn could be a boon for Kay Hagan?

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The legislative session that just ended in North Carolina was a conservative bonanza — and Tar Heel State Democrats think that may be just what Sen. Kay Hagan needed to save her seat.

Next fall, Hagan (D-N.C.) will defend her seat in a Republican-controlled red state that narrowly went to Mitt Romney in 2012. The state’s Democrats are betting that the recent actions of the state Legislature will be perceived as overreach, helping out Hagan: Tougher abortion restrictions, broader conceal-carry powers and more stringent voter ID requirements all passed out of the statehouse following a busy and controversial session of the state Legislature.

Democrats are eager to tie the eventual Republican challenger to the statehouse — especially if House Speaker Thom Tillis receives the nomination.

Along with Democratic-held seats in the red states of Alaska, Louisiana and Arkansas, Hagan’s spot is considered a top pickup opportunity for Republicans, who need six more senators to take control of the upper chamber.

But Democrats note that North Carolina isn’t as deeply red as other places with competitive races, arguing that Romney barely won the state in 2012 and noting that President Barack Obama took the state in 2008. If they can paint the North Carolina GOP as being too extreme, the thinking goes, they can garner enough centrist votes to keep a hold on the Senate seat.

“Any Senate race is going to be a bit of a fight, but three months ago, I would have thought it was going to be a lot tougher than it is now,” longtime Democratic strategist Thomas Mills told POLITICO.

On Monday night, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed a controversial abortion bill that critics charge would restrict access to the procedure; supporters say it bolsters clinic standards. He also approved a gun bill that allows more leeway for where gun owners with conceal-carry permits can bring their weapons even as it adds more information to the state’s background checks system. The governor has also signaled that he will sign a measure that increases requirements for voting, among a bevy of other bills.

“The first thought is this: The bills passing are not right for the state of North Carolina,” said a North Carolina Democrat who is close to the Hagan campaign. “Beyond that, I think any strategist would look and be able to tell that Thom Tillis and [Senate Leader] Phil Berger are going to be caught up in the wildly unpopular legislation.”

Still, observers on both sides of the aisle note that Hagan needs to tread carefully. North Carolina has a more conservative electorate, and Republicans argue that if Obama couldn’t win over those voters during a devastating year for the GOP nationally, a Democratic candidate in a nonpresidential election has a tough road ahead.

Tillis is among the better-known Republican contenders for the seat, and Berger, among others, could jump in the race, but Democrats are invoking the activities of the state Legislature, regardless of who scores the nomination. They say the GOP-dominated statehouse has energized a broad coalition of opposition and hope to capitalize on that enthusiasm.

“In a low-turnout election where you’ve got nothing else on the ticket, no president, no gubernatorial, nothing … the party that has the most motivated voters tends to win,” Mills said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see because I think generally in an election like that, it’s driven totally by national mood. There’s [now] the possibility that it’s going to be driven by reaction to the state Legislature.”

Democrats point to “Moral Monday” rallies — weekly protests against the state Legislature’s actions over the past several months — as one encouraging sign for 2014.

On Monday, a rally in Raleigh drew 10,000 people largely protesting elements of the budget, according to organizers in news reports, though police pegged that turnout at closer to 3,000. Still, it was considered the biggest Moral Monday rally since the protests kicked off in April, reports said. On a smaller scale, Mills also pointed to an event in a “little tiny town” near Asheville that, he said, drew 450 people earlier this week.

“You don’t get that kind of reaction unless people are pissed,” he said.

A survey released earlier this month from the Raleigh-based, liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling firm found Hagan up double digits over all of her potential opponents — even as her own favorability rating only clocks in at 43 percent favorable to 45 percent unfavorable. The poll attributed her gains over opponents to “the incredible unpopularity of the North Carolina Legislature.”

Running for 2014 NC Senate: Greg Brannon

August 27th, 2013 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Archives 3 Responses
Running for 2014 NC Senate: Greg Brannon

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Dr. Greg Brannon, practicing OB/GYN critical care surgeon out of Cary, NC, officially announced that he will run for Kay Hagan’s Senate Seat in the 2014 election.

The announcement came months after a grassroots effort was formed to convince Brannon to run for the position. “Draft Dr. Greg Brannon to Senate Run 2014,” a social media page created by several grassroots supporters and friends in the North Carolina tea party and liberty activist movement, attempted to convince Brannon to throw his hat in the ring by displaying grassroots republican support for his potential candidacy.

Brannon officially announced his campaign Saturday afternoon in front of a mixed audience of the NC-RLC and the Eastern NC Tea Party, at a Winterville, NC event, “LiberTEA Rally.” The event organizers were unaware that Brannon would make his initial campaign announcement at their event, calling it a surprise.

“(We were) proud to be part of the event. I wasn’t aware it was his first public announcement,” said Diane Rufino, Founder of the Eastern NC Tea Party.

The Eastern North Carolina Republican Liberty Caucus said of the announcement, “We were pleased that invited speaker, Dr. Greg Brannon … choose our Liber-Tea rally as the setting to make his first public announcement regarding his candidacy. … Dr. Brannon is a strong advocate for the US Constitution, personal liberty, and freedom. We look forward to his focus on these essential issues during his candidacy.”

Dr. Greg Brannon is the President of FoundersTruth.org and a weekly radio guest of the Bill LuMaye Show out of Raleigh.

Conservatives must pick a candidate soon to defeat Hagan

August 27th, 2013 by NC Tea Party Staff Categories: Archives 2 Responses
Conservatives must pick a candidate soon to defeat Hagan

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina rode President Barack Obama’s coattails in 2008, winning a seat Republicans had held for nearly four decades. Now Hagan faces a powerful Republican rebound as she seeks a second term in November 2014. Her saving grace in the race could be a crowded GOP primary that seems to be taking shape, with the potential to leave the eventual GOP nominee battered and broke.

Kay Hagan

North Carolina’s political balance is far different now than it was in 2008 when the state sent Obama to the White House and Hagan to the Senate in a remarkable year for Democrats. Today, the GOP controls the state’s executive and legislative branches simultaneously for the first time since 1870. Republicans also hold nine of the state’s 13 House seats, thanks in part to the party’s efforts to redraw legislative boundaries to favor its candidates.

And North Carolina, still recovering from the recession, voted for Obama in his first race but narrowly voted against him in 2012, instead backing Republican Mitt Romney. “We’ve got a good record to build on,” said state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is running for the Republican nomination.

Greg Brannon, a physician with tea party support, also is seeking the nod. No fewer than five other Republicans are considering bids, including state Senate leader Phil Berger, Reps. Renee Ellmers and Virginia Foxx, Southern Baptist leader the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte and former Ambassador Jim Cain of Raleigh.

Republicans are emboldened both by their recent electoral fortunes and by controversies in Washington dogging Obama and his Democrats, including questions over the IRS’ improper targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny and questions about the Obama administration’s handling of the terror attack that killed four Americans in Libya last fall. “The things that are happening at a national level make North Carolina and the North Carolina Senate race that much more of an attraction for conservative candidates,” said Berger, a lawyer from small-town Eden who plans to make a decision later this summer about whether to run.

He said Hagan “remains vulnerable to a challenge from a strong candidate.” Republicans argue that Hagan should be replaced because she’s too closely aligned with Obama and voted for his federal health care overhaul – a preview of the playbook the eventual Republican nominee is all but certain to use next fall.

Republicans are using a similar pitch in the three other states where Democratic senators are up for re-election in 2014 and where Romney won last year. Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to take control, and some of the GOP’s best pick-up opportunities are in North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana.

Hagan’s other potential vulnerabilities include her support for legalizing gay marriage after a constitutional amendment banning it in North Carolina passed easily in 2012, as well as her vote for expanding background checks on gun purchases. She’s clearly mindful of Obama’s divisiveness in the state, and she wasn’t on hand for the president’s recent visit to North Carolina. Her office said she was busy on the Senate floor with farm and student loan legislation.

Hagan is downplaying her Democratic alliances in hopes of attracting support from centrists as well as Republicans. She described herself earlier this year as a “commonsense, middle of the road, independent thinker” and has been courting farmers and veterans, two key voting blocs historically likely to vote Republican in North Carolina. “People in North Carolina are worried about jobs and the economy, and that’s what I am focused on,” the former banker from Greensboro said after speaking at the recent grand opening of a high-tech greenhouse in the technology-rich Research Triangle Park. Unemployment in North Carolina is well above the national average.

In April, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent nationally and 8.9 percent in the state. “I am hoping that we can work together as Democrats and Republicans to really help change that,” said Hagan, who is fashioning herself as someone on the front lines of ending partisan gridlock in the Senate. She also has promoted her efforts to press the Obama administration to relieve a backlog in processing veterans’ medical benefits and to work to reduce crop insurance fraud. To get a second term, she’ll need to win over Democrats like Scott Whitford of Pamlico County, who farms 2,500 acres. “I don’t agree with her on every issue, but on most agriculture issues she has been supportive of farmers,” he said. A registered Democrat, Whitford said he’s voted more for Republicans over the past 15 years than from his own party.

After the farm bill passed the Senate recently, Hagan’s office sent out a news release claiming she “secured major victories for North Carolina farmers,” particularly tobacco growers. Hagan raised a respectable $1.6 million during the first fundraising quarter of the year for a race that could cost the victor upwards of $10 million – not counting millions more from outside groups. She has visited all 100 counties and held a town hall meeting in each during her first term. It serves as a contrast to Hagan’s predecessor, GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who was criticized for her prolonged absence from North Carolina after decades in Washington.

Hagan beat Dole in 2008, and conservative icon Jesse Helms held the seat for 30 years before Dole. Democrats seem to be most worried about Tillis, a suburban Charlotte corporate consultant, prodigious fundraiser and one of the architects of the Republican surge in Raleigh. They’re spending most of their time so far criticizing his House record and links to big donors. Democrats and civil rights groups have held a series of protests – leading to nearly 400 arrests – over the past month in Raleigh blaming Tillis, Berger and others for what they called extreme conservative policies.