Why we care about the State Health Plan and why you should too (even if you’re not a state employee)

At the Health Access Coalition some have asked us questions about why we are working so hard on the State Health Plan crisis. Some consider the issue a distraction from larger initiatives to reform health care in our state and nation.

First I will note that HAC is still paying attention to national health reform and bills at the state level that will move us toward increased coverage and cost effective care. I will also say that taxpayers are going to shell out more as lawmakers keep adding costs to the State Health Plan for crazy schemes like switching from a fiscal year to a calendar year. State employees also are important to all of us. Every time a problem is identified in state government — whether it’s at DOT or Corrections — one of the culprits is turnover. If we continue eroding benefits then we are doing nothing to alleviate the problem.

But there is a larger reason to care about the State Health Plan negotiations — because it is a harbinger of things to come.

The State Health Plan is a perfect illustration of the challenges we will face in enacting health reform at the state and national levels. While President Obama is hosting round tables, seminars, town hall meetings, press conferences, and summits everyone is holding hands and making nice. But there is big money sloshing around our health system and big special interests profiting from the status quo. As soon as we see the specifics of any reform proposals the gloves will come off.

That is exactly what we have seen with the State Health Plan. Want to save money on drug costs? Too bad — that will take money out of the pockets of pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry. How about saving money on premiums by charging more for specialty visits? Nope — that upsets the chiropractors. Can we cut administrative costs at the State Health Plan? Sorry, that might bother Blue Cross.

The truth is that achieving savings in the health system is going to mean that some people are not going to make as much money as they do now. No business is going to see its profits cut without a fight. We see it with the State Health Plan. We will see it with national reform.

One Comment

  1. Hope

    April 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks for writing this piece Adam. In my outreach work, as I’ve been traveling around the state, talking with folks who are interested in and advocating for meaningful health care reform, some have sugggested that the problems with the State Health Plan constitute a political distraction and that there are larger fish to fry in order to address NC’s growing uninsured population. I have responded that to my thinking, it’s important to understand what is happening between Blue Cross and the State Health Plan because it reflects a totally broken health care system that we must reform. Examining the problems with the State Health Plan does not distract from our efforts to cover all North Carolinians; rather, it highlights the kind of bad policy potholes that we need to steer clear of on the road to meaningful health care reform.