Mission Health System and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are fighting a historic battle. Mission, with a 90% market share of hospital admissions in Buncombe County, won’t accept Blue Cross insurance after Oct. 4. With the insurer covering about 4 million state residents, that’s like Starbucks telling customers to shift to Folgers. Left unresolved, many of Mission’s Blue Cross customers would have to drive to Hendersonville to receive in-network prices.
Blue Cross’ demands include payment rate reductions coupled with unrealistic “pay for performance incentives,” Mission Chief Financial Officer Charles Ayscue says. The system, which had revenue of $1.5 billion last year, is cutting $240 million in costs from 2014-18. Mission’s pricing for births, CT scans and other procedures are among the state’s highest, Blue Cross spokeswoman Darcie Dearth says. Mission is the largest of a handful of systems to send Blue Cross a termination notice in recent years.
The public can’t tell who’s right, because health care pricing isn’t transparent, says Lynn Bailey, an industry consultant based in Columbia, S.C. “You don’t know if they are a billion dollars apart, or $1.29.”
Western North Carolina relies on retirees, who require great health care. Mission fills the bill: It regularly sits atop Business North Carolina’s rankings of the state’s best hospitals. But look for drama before a final settlement. “It’s always about money,” Bailey says.
Act of Defiance
A rock-solid truism would seem to be that whiskey gets better with age. The more time in the barrel, the better. Liquor companies have spent a fortune making that case. Except it isn’t true, according to Joe Patrino, head distiller at Blue Ridge Distilling in Rutherford County. Since December 2012, Blue Ridge has been producing Defiant Whisky in as little as 60 days, minus any wooden barrels. The brand, priced at $40 to $45 for a fifth, is now distributed in 26 states and ranks among the top three N.C.-based liquor sellers, according to the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The state has 68 approved distillers.
Instead of barrels, Defiant inserts dozens of foot-long oak spirals into stainless-steel tanks, creating the preferred darker color. It is seven times more expensive, but getting product on shelves more quickly pays off, Patrino says. “Why would you wait three or four years before taking your product to market?” Honored by ForWhiskeyLovers.com in 2014 as the best new U.S. whiskey and in 2016 as most underrated, Defiant has shown “older is no better, and just putting whiskey into a barrel doesn’t make it any better.”
FRANKLIN — Entegra Financial will acquire Chattahoochee Bank of Georgia for about $34.9 million. The bank has one branch in Gainesville, Ga., and about $197 million in assets. The parent of Entegra Bank (formerly Macon Bank) operates 17 branches in the Carolinas and Georgia and had assets of $1.4 billion as of March 31. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
OLD FORT — Furniture maker Ethan Allen will add 16 jobs at its 500,000-square-foot plant here. The Danbury, Conn.-based company employs more than 900 people at seven manufacturing facilities in the state, including about 300 in McDowell County. The company received a state grant of $195,462 for renovations.
ASHEVILLE — Parsec Financial acquired Winston-Salem-based Mimosa Investment Management for an undisclosed amount. Started in 1980 by Bart Boyer, Parsec had more than $2 billion in assets under management as of March 31.
BOONE — Appalachian State University named Henry “Hank” Foreman vice chancellor and chief of staff, a position he has held on an interim basis since December. Foreman has worked at ASU since 1993. Previous roles include senior associate vice chancellor and chief communications officer.
Photo provided by Mission Health System