HB184 best approach to reform State Health Plan
Sunday, April 7, 2019
As many of your readers are aware, State Treasurer Dale Folwell has chosen to forge ahead with his proposal to significantly alter the reimbursement strategy for health care providers who offer care under the State Health Plan. Citing concerns with the State Health Plan’s insolvency, Treasurer Folwell’s Clear Pricing Project seeks to tie health care provider reimbursements to federal Medicaid rates. While State Health Plan savings are desperately needed for solvency, the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce believes that the Treasurer’s hurried plan will produce severe and irreparable damage to the healthcare systems and economy of eastern North Carolina.
Were it put into practice, the Clear Pricing Project would severely impact rural North Carolinians. Unlike urban areas of the state, rural communities in the east are facing significant shortages of primary care providers, dentists and mental health providers. According to the 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmap Report, counties like Beaufort, Edgecombe, Lenoir and Martin have access to 40 percent fewer primary care providers and over 50 percent fewer dentists when compared to our urban peers.
If the Clear Pricing Project were to go into effect, it would force the few remaining providers in our rural areas to choose between accepting significantly lower reimbursements for their services or risk being considered an out-of-network provider under the State Health Plan. Either way, residents of eastern North Carolina would find themselves with fewer provider options, thereby forcing families to pay more out of pocket, travel to population centers for medical services, or not seek treatment at all.
Compounding these concerns, implementation of the Clear Pricing Project also could severely hinder the region’s economic development initiatives. Reduced health care access, coupled with increased cost of delivery, would add to the inherent challenges faced in courting potential employers to locate in our region. As a leading economic development publisher recently stated, “Quality and affordability of healthcare comes down to more than just dollars … it is an essential component of quality of life, which is still a significant factor in the site-selection process.”
Our chamber fully understands that there are serious issues that need to be addressed with the solvency of the State Health Plan. However, impacts to rural North Carolina should not be an afterthought in this discussion. If enacted, there is a high likelihood that the treasurer’s plan will eviscerate our regional health care systems and negatively affect all of our members and citizens. While we commend the treasurer for his efforts to achieve cost savings on behalf of State Health Plan members, his plan will effectively degrade the quality of healthcare available to eastern North Carolinians due to the flawed and hurried approach that has been undertaken.
Because of the potential fallout from the Clear Pricing Project’s slash-and-burn approach, the chamber recommends that the treasurer and our state legislators fully study and weigh the potential impacts of such a monumental change. House Bill 184 does just this by requiring that all parties come together to develop a thoughtful plan to address the underlying issues with the State Health Plan. By bringing all stakeholders together, including the state treasurer, State Health Plan Board, State Health Plan members and health care providers, HB184 will allow key parties to develop a unified solution that protects both taxpayers and their health care.
Thankfully, members of the General Assembly are listening to the concerns of rural North Carolina. On April 3, HB184 overwhelmingly passed the House with rare bipartisan support. We’re now hopeful that the Senate will do its part and quickly pass this common sense bill so that the real work can begin. We encourage all of your readers to call your senators and express support of this bill.
The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce