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House finds new ways to make state workers pay

The North Carolina House passed the proposed State Health Plan fix out of the Insurance Committee today, but not before it shifted more costs to state workers by protecting more special interests.

The Senate bill, which is frightening enough, achieved some savings by charging higher co-pays for therapist and chiropractor visits. That savings was then passed on to all members through decreased cost sharing. The Senate originally proposed similar cost savings from pharmacists, but pharmacists were able to shift that burden to state workers.

Now come the chiropractors and therapists. At the behest of chiropractors the House stripped out the provisions that would require higher co-pays, which means the House Appropriations Committee will now have to find the forgone millions in savings. Guess where they will likely get the money? Blue Cross? The House might end up requiring steeper dependent premium hikes than the Senate.

There was also some drama in the committee today as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Bob Greczyn and State Employees Association of North Carolina lobbyist Ardis Watkins addressed lawmakers. Not surprisingly, Greczyn doesn’t think he makes too much in compensation and doesn’t think Blue Cross is at all to blame for the State Health Plan shortfall. Watkins asked legislators to get cash to the State Health Plan and then take time to figure out a long term fix.

Lawmakers thanked Greczyn for his time and asked no tough questions. Then they gave a financial boost to chiropractors, shifted more costs to state workers, and adjourned. The bill now goes to Appropriations. I can’t think of any powerful interests that have not been granted special consideration in this bill, but the folks on Jones Street never fail to surprise me.