A state-funded entity using taxpayer funds to wage political warfare against an elected state official. (*Isn’t THAT special?*)
State treasurer Dale Folwell was inspired to pursue his special pricing transparency project for the state health plan by the actions of UNC Hospitals. Folwell asked the state health care organization to provide him with pricing information, and they gave him documents that were,oh, 75-90% REDACTED.
The BEST drive-by reporter in The Milky Way galaxy — Nick Ochsner — dug up the truth about what UNC Hospitals did next:
[…] The UNC Hospitals system wrote a check from a state account in January of this year that, in part, was intended to fund a dark money political organization, records obtained by WBTV show.
UNC Hospitals paid $58,633 in early January 2019 as part of a special assessment levied by the North Carolina Healthcare Association that was specifically earmarked to contribute to a 501(c)(4) group affiliated with NCHA called Partners for Innovation in Healthcare.[…]
If you recall “Partners” (1) played a leading role in the public criticism of Folwell’s plan to control costs, and (2) “persuaded” legislators to pass a bill curtailing Folwell’s constitutionally-mandated duty to manage the state health plan. (They sponsor NC Spin, too.)
[…] “Most notably, included in your dues statement is a special assessment to be used to fund ‘Partners for Innovation in Healthcare.’ This 501(c)(4) organization was founded to be a common-sense pragmatic voice for our state’s healthcare delivery system,” NCHA President Stephen Lawler wrote in a December 2018 letter about the next year’s dues to UNC Hospitals President Gary Park.
You might remember Mr. Lawler from this episode earlier this year.
“We are committed to showing you a healthy return and hope you find that a small increase in dues for 2019 is appropriate and a solid investment,” the paragraph about the special assessment in Lawler’s letter concluded.
A copy of the NCHA invoice obtained by WBTV showed the organization billed the special assessment separately to the organization’s other dues and individual line item charges, like for ‘2019 Communications.’
The 2019 invoice to UNC Hospitals included a line-item listed as ‘Special Assessment – Board approved one time contribution to Partners for Innovation in Health Care.’ The amount listed next to that line-item is $58,633.
A signature at the bottom of a copy of the invoice reads, “approved for payment” with a hospital executive’s signature dated December 28, 2018. It is not clear from the signature who, specifically, signed the invoice to approve the payment.
Separately, a document entitled ‘University of North Carolina Hospitals Check Request Form’ lists all items from the NCHA invoice individually, including the ‘Special Assessment’ of $58,633.
The entire amount was paid by a check cut from the UNC Hospitals account.
But in a statement issued by UNC Health Care spokesman Alan Wolf on Monday, the hospital paid the special assessment, designated for the NCHA-affiliated dark money group, by mistake.
“In paying its NCHA dues, UNC Hospitals inadvertently paid an assessment that was included on the invoice. This was an administrative oversight and has been rectified,” Wolf said in an email. “NCHA confirms it did not use UNC Hospitals funds for its 501(c)(4) organization and has since refunded that money.”
Wolf provided a copy of a check issued on Monday, June 24th confirming NCHA had refunded the money but did not provide any proof outside of a letter from NCHA that the $58,633 paid by the hospital to the NCHA was not funneled to the 504(c)(4), as indicated in both the letter from NCHA’s president, Stephen Lawler, and in the group’s invoice.
Nor could Wolf explain how the hospital inadvertently paid the line-item expense specifically intended to be funneled to the dark money group.[…]
Dare to ask questions about the goings-on in Raleigh, and you run the risk of being targeted with the very money the state has already confiscated from you.
(Pay attention, Mr. Causey. You are very likely next on the list.)