N.C. hospital industry, state employees remain at odds over State Health Plan

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North Carolina’s hospitals remain strongly opposed to changes that would enable the State Health Plan to reduce the amount it pays for many hospital procedures for its 700,000 members.

But hospital officials aren’t keen on discussing the matter in a public forum, preferring to see how state lawmakers act on a pending proposal that would block the plan from taking effect.

Dr. Michael Waldrum, chairman of the N.C. Health Care Association and CEO of Vidant Health, turned down an invitation by the State Employees Association of North Carolina to speak at a town hall Thursday in Greenville. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who proposed the so-called Clear Pricing Project and chairs the health plan’s board, is planning to attend the meeting.

“Just cutting prices on episodic patient charges is not the best way forward … and will be damaging in so many ways,” Waldrum says.

The meeting’s purpose is to discuss the new plan with association members in eastern North Carolina, says Robert Broome, the group’s executive director.

N.C. hospitals are pressing for passage of House Bill 184, which would trim Folwell’s authority over the plan and set up a commission to study how to tackle the plan’s mounting liabilities. While the bill passed in the House, it’s slowed down in the Senate, where Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has shown little enthusiasm for the changes.

“I don’t understand what is unproductive about simply talking about the issues,” Broome says. “I think a lot of hospital executives don’t mind speaking about this when they have a friendly audience and can control the rhetoric.”

Health care providers are transitioning to a new approach in which billing would be more tied to patient outcomes rather than a fee for every service, Waldrum says. The State Health Plan proposal moves in the opposite direction and “is out of step with what is responsible for North Carolina.”

Read Vidant’s full response here.

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