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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

State treasurer announces resolution of impasse over State Health Plan

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

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: