Very few Americans deny that healthcare is a mess. We pay more for healthcare than anywhere in the world. Yet, sadly, we don’t get the best treatment in the world. So-called “affordable care” is hardly affordable. Middle class family income has stagnated in part because, for at least the last 15 years, the cost of health insurance and healthcare has eaten up wage gains they have made.
In an effort to curb the relentless upward trend of healthcare costs, North Carolina’s State Treasurer, Dale Folwell, took a swing and tried introducing cost control measures for the health plan that covers state employees. His proposal was for North Carolina to follow the lead of a successful program implemented by the State of Montana, in which that state’s health plan negotiated with the hospitals in the state to pay them based upon a multiple of Medicare reimbursement rates (rather than the usual discount off of an insanely inflated billed amount). Kaiser Health News states the Montana plan changes, implemented in 2016, saved the state $15.6 million.
According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal, the much larger North Carolina plan stood to save taxpayers and plan members as much as $300 million. Folwell’s proposed actions had gained tremendous support from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the very people who would be impacted by these modifications. It seemed as if he would hit a home run.
What I have not yet mentioned is that the healthcare industry spends more on lobbying than any other industry in the U.S. And they spent hard in North Carolina. In the ninth inning, the state legislature folded to the pressure put upon them by the state’s hospital lobby, the North Carolina Healthcare Association. The bill was DOA. Strike out. End of game.
Regretfully, the results of this failure will mean higher costs, larger deductibles, and the potential for delayed or eliminated pay increases for the state employees; and without a doubt, higher taxes for residents.
The day will come when healthcare providers – in particular hospitals and corporate healthcare systems – will wake up to the fact that we can no longer afford their wildly inflated costs and wasteful spending. The batter will come up in the rotation again soon. I hope he gets a home run the next time he’s at the plate.