Previously, I wrote about State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s plan to control costs in the State Health Plan (SHP), and new legislation (HB184) introduced at the North Carolina General Assembly to block its implementation.
The issue of health care, specifically Medicaid and the SHP, are contentious issues that will be debated at the General Assembly this session.
With all the new attention given to the SHP and the Treasurer’s plan, a new special interest group has arrived on Jones Street to peddle influence — the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care (PIHC).
A cursory glance at the PIHC website or Twitter page will show that this group has tunnel vision in a single target — stopping Dale Folwell’s plan to change reimbursement rates on the SHP and implement a reference-based pricing model.
On social media and their website (and potentially at the General Assembly) PIHC make arguments regarding a potential loss of health care jobs if the state implements Folwell’s plan, while claiming that the treasurer already has transparency in hospital pricing (false). They also claim that Treasurer Folwell is attempting to politicize the SHP.
In their arguments, PIHC provides no clarity on who Folwell’s political target is or any solutions on how to fix the $32 billion unfunded liability of the SHP. Meanwhile, the group that will be most directly affected by any change to the SHP – the State Employees Association of North Carolina — has endorsed Folwell’s plan.
Here is the critical question: who is the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care?
A glance at the group’s website shows a post office box in Cary:
Post Office Box 4449
Cary, NC 27519
A bit of rummaging at the Federal Election Commission and the State Board of Elections reveals that this is the same post office box used by the North Carolina Healthcare Association (formerly known as the North Carolina Hospital Association), and the North Carolina Hospital Association Political Action Committee (PAC). It seems that the hospital lobby has very close ties to PIHC.
Since PIHC and the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC share a post office box, is there a correlation between legislators that have sponsored HB184 and political contributions made by the PAC? It seems so.
According to records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, of the four primary sponsors on HB184, all four received contributions from the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC. The maximum contribution for state legislative races in 2018 was $5,200 per election. Of the four primary sponsors, which are listed below, two received maximum contributions while the average contribution for the primary sponsors was $3,280.
Of the 21 co-sponsors on HB184, 12 received contributions from the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC. Two of the co-sponsors received the maximum contribution, and the average contribution for co-sponsors was $1,762.
In all, the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC made $39,300 in political contributions to legislators that have signed on to HB184.
Admittedly, there are plenty of legislators who received contributions from the Hospital Association PAC and did not sign on to this legislation but zeroing in on that misses the larger point.
There is clear evidence that the North Carolina hospital lobby has a great deal of interest in defeating Treasurer Folwell’s plan to reform the SHP. So why has the hospital lobby created a shell-organization to advocate on its behalf? Why is the hospital lobby opposed to having transparency in their pricing? And why is the hospital lobby fighting pricing transparency on the state health plan while some lawmakers are proposing a new hospital tax to pay for Medicaid Expansion?
These are critical questions that lawmakers need to ask themselves when considering the situation on the SHP. The Treasurer’s plan is not necessarily a silver bullet, but the unfunded liability is at least 130 percent larger than our state government’s annual budget. Jones Street needs solutions before we bankrupt ourselves.
Meanwhile, expect PIHC and the North Carolina Healthcare Association to retreat to the same tired boogeyman that they use to advocate for Medicaid Expansion and fight Certificate of Need reform – the impact on rural hospitals.