Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodwin Continues Helping Eastern North Carolina Senior Citizens

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin this week traveled to southeastern North Carolina to spread his message about the Relay for Extra Help initiative.

Speaking before a crowd of approximately 300 citizens packed into the Whiteville train depot, Goodwin stressed how senior citizens in the Cape Fear region and throughout eastern North Carolina were likely part of the 80,000 residents of the state eligible for subsidies and discounts for their prescription drugs and health care.

WECT-TV Channel 6 of Wilmington had this to say:

WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) – The cost of prescription drugs will soon be dropping for many resident living in Columbus County. ... Qualifying senior citizens can receive up to 25 percent off their total cost of healthcare and prescription drugs thanks to the Relay for Health bill. ... "A lot of our seniors can't get all their prescriptions every month because they don't have the monetary gains do that," said Ed Worley, director of Department of Aging. "This will help encourage them to get all of their prescriptions as well as coverage of insurance." ...
North Carolina's Insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin says many counties do not take advantage of the Relay plan, because they do not know about it.
And, of course, that's why the Commissioner and his partners are on the road spreading the gospel of the beneficial program.

Other speakers explained how to enroll and stressed how to avoid being defrauded by scammers.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin underscored his rock-solid commitment to senior citizens, protecting consumers of all ages, and being accessible and active on behalf of eastern North Carolina.

The program is a partnership between the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program and area councils on aging.

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Photographs courtesy of Herb Harp Photography of Fair Bluff, NC.

A "Wayne's World" Editorial: National Security Threatened By Supreme Court Decision?

I've been holding my tongue publicly about the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United, trying to find just the right words to express my outrage. No more am I mute.Though countless others have already analyzed and pontificated all sides of the main question, several questions bubble to the surface for me. Here are four interrogatories that came to mind right off the bat:

First, how is it that members of the Supreme Court majority in the Citizens United case - including Chief Justice Roberts - have preached "judicial restraint" and "honoring precedent" and "strict construction" of the Constitution for years and years, even testifying to Senate confirmation panels that such philosophy was their pole star, but in this case have become the activist court that they have heretofore demonized? Not only did the slim majority of the Court undo long-standing precedent going back 100 years to the days of Teddy (not Franklin) Roosevelt, but it ventured beyond the questions presented to it by the underlying Circuit Court. And I'm not the only one who noticed: Among millions of people were Steve Ford of the Raleigh News & Observer, who said:
Now, [Justice] Kennedy and his four like-minded colleagues had strained for reasons to disregard those precedents. That approach was the essence of over-the-top judicial activism - the bane of conservatives except when it serves their purposes.
Hypocrisy, thy name is collectively Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas.

(Coincidentally, the first letters of their surnames spells out exactly what type of Court opinion this was: It was a STARK contrast with precedent and judicial restraint.)

Second, how is it that Newt Gingrich and other conservative and ultra-conservative commentators, pundits, and Congressmen can say with a straight face, as they have already, that the Citizens United decision "levels the playing field" for citizens? Give me a break. The "citizens" they speak of are not individuals, but corporations. Yes, as an attorney, I know all the arguments and legalisms regarding corporate personhood, the 14th Amendment, et al. But levelling the playing field? No way. The vast super-majority of Americans cannot contribute the maximum to political campaigns. If and when they do contribute, it's most often in small amounts. Corporations, on the other hand, by virtue of this court decision, may dip into the millions and billions in their corporation treasury and engage in political activity with reckless abandon, and make unlimited contributions well above what the average John and Jane Q. Citizen could ever do.

And, on top of that, the decision presently leaves the door open for corporate executives to direct corporation monies to political campaigns with no input from shareholders. (And then there are the corporations that are not publicly traded, but privately held.) If anything, the Supreme Court didn't level the alleged "playing field" ... it tilted the field such that it resembles the Titanic, tip first, just before it sank into the Atlantic.

Third, what happened to the compelling state interest to prevent actual corruption or the appearance of corruption? A significant number of state attorneys general (including my Attorney General, Roy Cooper) addressed that very question in their joint amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The Supreme Court majority chose to ignore them and the fight against corruption. Picking up the Citizens United baton and carrying it further, like-minded conservative members of Congress feign concern by alluding to more instantaneous campaign finance reporting as the antiseptic to corruption. Even if you learn that your cause or candidate is being outspent $100 million to $1 by corporate cash (as opposed to contributions from individuals, live persons) and you learn about it instantly through online campaign reporting, what good will it do in stopping the appearance of corruption, of elections being bought and sold, particularly when those same corporations may very well own the news media which would normally be watchdogs for this sort of thing?

Fourth, why did the Roberts court and its Republican members make a decision that some persons say could threaten national security? By virtue of its broad decision, the Supreme Court's conservative majority may have very well opened the floodgates to foreign countries and foreign corporations - and terrorists? - attempting to buy American elections. (Why aren't there any conservative commentators frothing at the mouth on this? Speaking of froth, where's Dick Cheney?) Where are the folks who say national security and homeland security should be considered first and foremost? We've already seen companies and corporations go abroad and re-locate outside of the USA. But more than ever we've seen foreign interests come here and set up their own corporations. (Think China, for example.) The Court's decision, made in a way to upend the American political system in 2010 and 2012, may have put American elections up for sale to the enemy.

On a long ago post here at my Wayne's World blog I wondered what would Thomas Jefferson do if he surveyed America's political landscape today.

I suspect that if the Sage of Monticello knew about this Court's Citizens United decision, Jefferson would be quite angry.

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(c) Wayne Goodwin. All rights reserved. Disclosure: Goodwin serves as President of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a North Carolina nonprofit think-tank fighting for good government, an enlightened electorate, and fundamental fairness in campaigns.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

State Fire Marshal Fights to Keep the “Silent Killer” Out of Your House

Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin announced that beginning Jan. 1, N.C. landlords were required by law to install at least one battery or electric carbon monoxide alarm on each level of each rental unit. Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that's created when a fuel source burns incompletely.

TimeWarner NewsChannel 14 Carolina covered this story here at this link. Insurance Commissioner Goodwin told viewers:
"Most of the types of casualties and injuries and incidents occurring in the home involving carbon monoxide occur in December, January and February, which matches up when we have the coldest months of the year," State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin said.

Goodwin said carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it’s odorless and colorless and the symptoms are like having the flu.

"Every month, you should test your carbon monoxide detector and alarm,” Goodwin said. “You should make sure the detector is located at every level and also particularly outside of bedroom units in your home."
In 2005, municipal fire departments nationwide responded to an estimated 61,100 carbon monoxide incidents. January and December were the peak months for CO incidents and the peak time of day was between 6 and 10 p.m.

Under the new state law, landlords must ensure that the carbon monoxide appliance is operating at the beginning of each new lease. They must repair or replace the alarm within 15 days of being notified in writing of a need for repair or replacement and may be fined if they are out of compliance.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips and Facts

• CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
• Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
• If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
• During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up. .

• Early symptoms of CO poisoning are nausea, headache and flu-like symptoms. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January and February. In 2006, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 reported U.S. home structure fires. This translates to 540 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $943 million in direct property damage.

General Heating Safety Tips

• All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
• Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
• Have a professional inspect and clean fireplaces, chimneys, furnaces and other heating equipment annually.

(Above statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association.)

It's rather telling - as North Carolina readers of the Wayne's World blog know after having the coldest weather recently in a generation - that half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February.

In the span of a few recent weeks there were numerous reports of carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths in North Carolina. One egregious example occurred in Charlotte.

Do your part to protect you, your loved ones, and your home from "The Silent Killer."

To learn more and to keep up with this and related safety programs, go to the Office of State Fire Marshal website at this link, or

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goodwin Continues Good Government Transparency Initiative

There's an old saying we all know: A picture is worth a thousand words.

As a continuation of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin's mission to move the North Carolina Department of Insurance further into the 21st century and expand ways for the public to know what's going on in their government and how they can participate, the Department has now added a Flickr page.

In addition to taking advantage of the new social media - such as NCDOI Facebook and YouTube channels, and having an online NCDOI suggestion box - the Department of Insurance and the Insurance Commissioner saw tremendous benefit in providing the photo service.

Each photo, in some form or another, expresses the concentrated efforts taken by the Department and Insurance Commissioner to protect consumers, to regulate insurance companies and other entities, to fight criminals, to ensure public safety, and to be the leading voice for fire, rescue and EMS personnel throughout the State. (Goodwin also serves as State Fire Marshal.).

And we won't have to use a thousand words to do each one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin Launches Suggestion Box on NCDOI Website

3-2-1. ... Liftoff! We have liftoff of the Insurance Commissioner's "Suggestion Box"!

As yet a further means to connect with consumers and take consumer protection to a new level at the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has launched a "Suggestion Box" for easy input by email for the public.

To view or try the Suggestion Box, go to this link here.

"Government transparency is very important to me. Throughout my administration I have greatly improved public participation by North Carolina consumers, families and businesses in the work of the Department of Insurance. In addition to public comment periods and greater emphasis on public hearings and a revamped website and social networking by the NCDOI, I'm very pleased to introduce the Suggestion Box," said Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. "I encourage everyone to try it out as needed."
He also reminds folks that all suggestions entered into the system become public records, whether submitted anonymously or with a real name.

Over the last year the Department of Insurance has also added a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and an RSS feed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin Attends, Heralds 2010 NC Economic Forecast Forum

The North Carolina Bankers Association and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce – in conjunction with many sponsors, including Bank of America, Progress Energy, S&A Cherokee, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives,
and Duke Energy Corporation – offered a program today providing the first outlook for North Carolina business in the new year.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and many State officials and other business leaders converged at the Progress Energy Performing Arts Center for the daylong Raleigh program. This is the eighth year such a program has been held.

The packed audience heard from a unique panel of experts.

First, attendees listened to observations and valuable information from Secretary of Health and Human Services, Lanier Cansler. His comments, including how some parts of our health system rely on 1970s (!) information technology, prefaced the morning session about health care reform and the pending health insurance legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Many in the audience next awaited comments from Brad Wilson of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, who is the incoming CEO of BCBSNC. Joining him in analyzing the health insurance reform legislation were the Dean of the UNC School of Medicine, the CEO of Coldwell Banker Commercial Trademark Properties, Duke University’s Chancellor for Health Affairs, and the Senior Vice President of GlaxoSmithKline.

In addition to the overall analysis of the proposed Congressional health insurance reforms, state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin noted how each of the panelists stressed that an “individual mandate” was necessary, how the mandate language needed sharper teeth to ensure the largest pool of insureds and lowest costs for consumers, and how the benefits of a strong mandate for health insurance are akin to the public policy behind mandatory automobile insurance that’s been long in force for North Carolina drivers.

Wilson’s description of a “progressive plutocracy” in North Carolina was very interesting to members, prompting several to mention it in the hallways afterward. He stated that business leaders in the State have most often throughout its history advanced measures that benefited public education, public health, and the general citizenry.

He also emphatically underscored how – despite all the animus and frenetic activity in all directions about health insurance and the like over the past year – the State’s future looked bright and positive, so long as North Carolina and its leaders stayed true to that visionary heritage. He said that opportunities abound for good things to happen for all North Carolinians.

After two hours of networking during lunch, an even larger crowd gathered for speeches about North Carolina’s economic forecast.

Given that it was his first day on the job, the remarks from the new President and CEO of Bank of America, Brian T. Moynihan, were greatly anticipated.

Following reflections from Governor Elizabeth Duke of the Federal Reserve System, business leaders and public officials heard the forecast – good and bad – from economist John Connaughton of UNC-Charlotte.

All in all, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin found the program beneficial.
“As Insurance Commissioner, I know that the health insurance debate and our economic rebound depend in part on the work of the state insurance regulator. For that reason, I had my Chief Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, and Legislative Counsel join me in attending today’s successful and enlightening forum.”
The Department of Insurance and your Insurance Commissioner are committed not only to consumer protection but also to North Carolina's economic rebound.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Goodwin Helps Eastern North Carolina and Area Senior Citizens

As part of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin's outreach effort to help more senior citizens get the prescription drug plan that is best for each of them, before Christmas he again visited New Bern and eastern North Carolina.

During his visit he and partners from various programs provided ways for senior citizens to save money on their health care needs.
To read about it in more detail, go to this link. The event was the culmination of efforts by the Craven County Office of the Cooperative Extension Service, the Area Agency on Aging, Craven Community College, Pamlico Senior Services, and the North Carolina Department of Insurance's SHIIP Division. Despite the snow and freezing rain, more than 70 senior citizens benefited from the one day's efforts alone, with total estimated annual savings surpassing $6,000 for that group.

For related information about the overall program, go to this link and this one.

Insurance Commissioner Goodwin maintains his regional office for eastern North Carolina in New Bern, easily located off of U.S. Highway 17 and near U.S. 70.