Shenanigans In North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper was elected in 2016 and began his term in 2017. Previously he served as North Carolina’s Attorney General. My sources tell me that he runs the Democrat party much the way a mafia don would, using threats to make sure no legislators break ranks in their voting. He also seems to have some problems controlling spending in some of the state agencies.

The Carolina Journal posted an article today citing some of Governor Cooper’s current challenges.

The article reports:

Consider, for example, the current cash crunch at North Carolina’s Department of Transportation. Secretary Jim Trogdon blames the problem on hundreds of millions of dollars of hurricane damage and payouts to property owners whose rights were violated by the state’s abusive Map Act.

While these costs are real, they don’t fully explain DOT’s overspending. An outside consultant’s report dinged the department for faulty forecasting and cash management. State Treasurer Dale Folwell cited the report’s findings as well as DOT’s transfer of $1.1 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to the Highway Fund without his legally required authorization as reasons why Cooper should replace Trogdon.

Rather than responding to these specific concerns, the governor’s press office put out a statement rejecting what it termed “a financial lecture from the nation’s least effective state Treasurer.” DOT’s money woes have complex origins and consequences, to be sure. But Trogdon’s defense neither required nor was advanced by such adolescent name-calling.

Much less money is at stake over at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, but its recent miscue inflicted more political damage.

The department handles a decades-old program called the N.C. State Scholarship for Children of War Veterans. The department sent out a letter informing colleges and universities that scholarship payments would be “delayed until further notice,” citing the budget impasse between Gov. Cooper and the General Assembly. But according to reporting by WBTV’s Nick Ochsner, there was neither a fiscal nor a legal reason to suspend payment. Whether this was simply an administrative screw-up or a purposeful attempt to pressure GOP lawmakers, it was incredibly foolish.

There are also some questions regarding Medicaid in the state:

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services is mired in its own controversy over awarding a Medicaid contract to a managed-care network led by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina instead of one led by Aetna. In its legal challenge to the decision, Aetna argues that one of the DHHS employees in charge of evaluating the bids was living with a key Blue Cross executive.

Furthermore, according to reporting by Carolina Journal’s Don Carrington, an internal document shows that Aetna’s bid originally ranked above the Blue Cross bid. A DHHS official then intervened to create a new criterion after the fact, which had the effect of displacing Aetna in favor of Blue Cross.

There are also charges that the Governor attempted to obstruct an investigation into some aspects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The article concludes:

Cooper and three of his aides have been asked to testify on the pipeline at a legislative hearing on November 8. Will the sober-minded former state senator and attorney general show up and provide a persuasive defense of his administration’s conduct? Or will North Carolinians be treated to another round of political hackery and juvenile tweets?

Lt. Governor Dan Forest will be running against Governor Cooper in 2020. Dan Forest definitely has my vote.

 

Trying To Get It Right

Dale Folwell is the State Treasurer of North Carolina. He was responsible for getting the state out of debt to the federal government unemployment benefits program (over the objections of many Democrats) and is now working to bring transparency to health benefits for state workers (again over the objections of Democrats and some Republicans).

The Carolina Journal reported on June 17th that Mr. Folwell is actually  making some progress.

The article reports:

With a deadline just 13 days away, Community Care Physician Network, North Carolina’s largest network of independent physician clinics, announced Monday, June 17, it signed on to the State Health Plan’s cost-cutting Clear Pricing Project.

Community Care Physician Network is associated with 2,500 primary care clinicians, pediatricians, family medicine physicians, obstetricians/gynecologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. The group has more than 880 practices statewide. The network treats more than 2.5 million North Carolinians, including 700,000 Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Their physicians are leaders in our state in developing the highly regarded medical home model. They’re known nationwide for high quality care, patient satisfaction and by using their innovative, collaborative approach to drive down costs,” Folwell said in a news release announcing the move.

Folwell says health care costs must be reduced immediately. The State Health Plan is only 3% funded, has $35 billion in unfunded liabilities, and will become insolvent in 2023. The Treasurer’s Office projects taxpayers could save $258 million and plan members $57 million annually under the Clear Pricing Project. The changes take place in 2020. Providers have until June 30 to join the project.

“It made good sense to us,” Conrad Flick, Community Care Physician Network co-president, said of linking with the reconstructed plan. “We’re dedicated to our communities and our patients, and focused on providing them with better and more cost-effective health care.”

The article concludes:

The N.C. Healthcare Association, the lobbying arm of hospitals and large health systems, continues to oppose Folwell’s plan. The group pushed for passage of House Bill 184 to halt the reforms and launch a two-year study instead. The House passed the measure, but it has gotten no traction in the Senate.

Hospitals say the cost-cutting features of Folwell’s plan jeopardize the survival of rural hospitals. Folwell said most rural hospitals will be better off financially under the plan, and nine of 10 primary care physicians will get more money.

Montana is among a handful of states that use the reference-based pricing model for their state health plans. Officials there told Carolina Journalthe results are positive.

Dale Folwell is attempting to bring the same sort of fiscal sanity to healthcare in North Carolina that he brought to unemployment benefits. Let’s hope that he is successful.