Campus News

State treasurer announces resolution of impasse over State Health Plan

Dr. A. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care and dean of the School of Medicine, spoke to Employee Forum about changes to the State Health Plan on Aug. 7. The next day, a new State Health Plan with an expanded network of providers was announced.

"The beauty is that no two days are identical in a week. I identify energy-saving opportunities in campus buildings and quantify savings amounts," said energy engineer Obadele (Obie) St. George.

Participants in the community forum include, from left, Aaron McKethan, Matt Brody, Matt Ewend and Shayna Hill.

[aside]Community forum set for Aug. 26

A community forum on the State Health Plan next week is open to all Carolina faculty and staff members. Sponsored by the Employee Forum, Faculty Council and Carolina Black Caucus, the meeting will be held noon-1:45 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Auditorium. The event will also be streamed live via Zoom or join by phone by calling 669-900-6833 and entering meeting ID 279-070-681.

Becci Menghini, interim vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement, will make opening remarks, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Jeffrey McQueen, Employee Forum parliamentarian.

Panelists for the discussion will be:

  • Dale Folwell, North Carolina State Treasurer;
  • Matt Brody, UNC System senior vice president for human resources;
  • Shayna Hill, UNC Employee Forum chair;
  • Matt Ewend, president of UNC Physicians, UNC Health Care;
  • Aaron McKethan, assistant professor of population health sciences, Duke University School of Medicine and senior policy fellow, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy; and
  • Donna Falvo, president of the UNC Retired Faculty Association.[/aside]

State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced a new State Health Plan on Aug. 8 that will give members access to an expanded network of providers.

The new network begins Jan. 1, 2020, and will be offered to members enrolled in the 70/30, 80/20 and high deductible health plans. Open enrollment for the 2020 benefit year will begin this fall, at a date to be announced later

The announcement ends weeks of uncertainty about the future of the plan, which covers more than 700,000 state employees. Health care providers across the state, including UNC Health Care, were reluctant to sign up for the state plan under Folwell’s Clear Pricing Project, which set rates based on Medicare reimbursement plus a profit ranging from 77% to 100% instead of the current practice of providers negotiating rates confidentially with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The resolution of the impasse between providers and the treasurer resulted in a provider network that includes the current Blue Options Network plus more than 28,000 providers that signed on to the Clear Pricing Project. This means there will be no network disruption for state employees, and UNC Health Care providers will remain “in network” through 2020.

The day before Folwell’s announcement, the Employee Forum hosted Dr. A. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care and dean of the School of Medicine, who spoke about the Clear Pricing Project.

Burks emphasized that both sides of the dispute have shared goals to lower costs, improve the patient experience and place greater emphasis on “healthy-based care.” When asked to explain what that meant, he said it was about helping unhealthy people to get healthy and healthy people to stay that way. That approach would save money by keeping people out of the hospital.

Wesley Burks

“The disagreements are over how we get there,” Burks said.

The state treasurer has argued that secret contracts have led to higher prices and that the Clear Pricing Project would save State Health Plan members more than $60 million a year and save taxpayers more than $300 million a year. Opponents fear Folwell’s plan could harm hospitals all over North Carolina, particularly in rural areas.

After Folwell’s Aug. 8 announcement of a resolution, Burks sent an email message to UNC Health Care and School of Medicine employees that read in part: “We were very pleased to learn that the impasse with the Plan had ended and that state employees will be guaranteed access to the primary, specialty and hospital care they’ve become accustomed to through the State Health Plan.”

Other presenters at the Employee Forum shared the following information of interest to employees:

  • Employee Forum Chair Shayna Hill recognized Jeff McQueen, a standardized patient training specialist in the School of Medicine, as the 2018 Erskine Bowles Award recipient from the UNC System Staff Assembly. The award was established in 2010 by the UNC Staff Assembly to recognize staff employees whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals of the University and the University’s public service mission; and
  • Orange County Emergency Planner Sarah Pickhardt discussed the Orange County Community Emergency Response Team and how people can sign up for disaster preparedness training. Registration is now open for CERT Basic Training courses that will be offered in September for skills such as emergency preparedness, fire safety and disaster medical operations.