#ncga: Et tu, Josh? (Ralph ???)

As we predicted, a bill has surfaced seeking to put the kibosh on state treasurer Dale Folwell’s efforts to get the costs of the state health plan under control.  The travails and woes of the plan — it’s set to run out of  money in 2023 — will end up hitting the wallets of ALL taxpayers, not just state employees. 

All Folwell is seeking to do is find out WHAT specifically the state owned hospital (UNC) is billing the state and its employees for health care delivery. We’ve currently got one arm of state government (UNC Hospitals)  keeping secrets from another arm of state government (the state treasurer) charged with managing the health plan on behalf of taxpayers. Instead of just being honest and open, the hospital dispatched lobbyists to shut Folwell down.  

*Surely, it was a challenge to find some legislators on Jones Street willing to do ANYTHING for a few extra lobbyist dollars.*

Here’s what treasurer Folwell had to say earlier about the efforts to shut down his transparency-seeking efforts:

[…] “The taxpayers need to understand that the state treasurer cannot find out from the state hospital what the State Health Plan is paying for medical services for state workers,” said Folwell. “It’s beyond belief.”

In order to begin reducing medical costs and to provide price transparency for its members, the Plan announced a new medical provider reimbursement strategy using referenced-based pricing based on a percentage over published government rates plus, on average, a 77 percent profit. The hospital association has vehemently opposed transparency in pricing and is intending to go to the North Carolina General Assembly to immediately stop the Plan’s initiative to bring transparency and reduce costs.  This opposition comes despite the state auditor’s finding of seven years ago that the state is at risk for potentially overpaying medical claims.

If the hospital association is successful in stopping the Plan, then premiums, copays, and deductibles for the nearly 727,000 teachers, public safety workers, and other state and local employees are likely to increase. In addition, the projected $300 million in savings to taxpayers and $65 million in savings to members will never be realized. This could have a devastating effect on the long-term viability of the Plan.[…] 

A draft bill has emerged, and my moles on Jones Street tell me it is slated for sponsorship by Rep. Josh Dobson — Mr. “International Travel for Legislative Duties” — and senator Ralph Hise.  The fact that things have gone this far in the short session indicate the effort has the blessings of folks much higher up the food chain (Berger, Moore, etc.) in both chambers. 

The Hise-Dobson legislation stops any and all of Folwell’s transparency-seeking efforts and kicks his ideas over to a “legislative study committee.”  In DC and Raleigh, legislative study committees are like black holes in outer space — where things are sent to never be seen, heard from, or acted on ever again.

This move is gutless. (It’s even worse that it involves a GOP majority stabbing a GOP official in the back for daring to do what the party promised when it took over Raleigh in 2010 and 2012:  stop working for the lobbyists and start working for the taxpayers.)  

This is kicking the can down the road so some “honorables” can get a few more checks into their campaign accounts.  The state health plan is barreling toward a state of insolvency.  And none of our elected (alleged) leaders — other than  Folwell — are offering up any ideas to put the brakes on.