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Proposed Bill Would Slow Down Changes To Health Insurance For State Workers

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Legislation has emerged to slow down changes to the state health insurance system — a system lawmakers empowered the state treasurer to oversee starting in 2012.  

The treasurer’s overhaul, which includes setting the rates the state will pay for each doctor’s visit or procedure is set to go into effect next January. The legislation to delay that would give a group of lawmakers, medical and employee associations, and a health plan official until April 2020 to study other ways to cut costs. State Treasurer Dale Folwell believes it’s all a delay tactic.

“I think if the General Assembly wants to take control of the state health plan back, that’s what they should do,” he said.

In 2012, lawmakers transferred control of the health plan to the treasurer. Last October, with approval from the board of trustees, Folwell announced changes to make payments to doctors and hospitals consistent across the state.

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Therapists and independent primary care doctors stand to get more in reimbursements. While large institutions are likely to see a cut, they fiercely oppose the plan arguing it would hurt rural hospitals. Republican Rep. Josh Dobson agrees. He represents three rural counties in western North Carolina.

“I thought that this would be a more comprehensive way to figure out how we can save money in the State Health Plan,” he said. “Bring all the stakeholders together and do just that.”

The bill is supported by the North Carolina Health Care Association. The group’s Cody Hand advocates for tying payments to how healthy doctors and hospitals keep patients.  

“As we’ve told legislators if we can’t get this done in a year, then the treasurer should be able to do what he needs to do to control costs,” Hand said.

The head of the State Employee Association of North Carolina Robert Broome doesn’t buy the idea that slowing down to study cutting costs is anything more than a way to stymie the changes.   

“Where are the people that are calling for the hospitals to speed up, to put transparency in their billing and to control costs, while continuing to provide quality care?” Broome asked.

The bill also reduces treasurer Folwell’s power to make these changes. He’d be on the committee, but only as a non-voting member.