As a more than decade-long advocate of better health care for everyone I find myself mystified today by the major news that WakeMed is making a $750 million “offer” to buy the part of the public UNC Hospital system comprising Rex Hospital. And this despite the fact that UNC has no interest in selling.
Why? It is a major and unneeded distraction from the biggest threat in years facing these two fine institutions who both provide so much needed health care for the lowest-income people in our community. What is that threat? Right now the NC General Assembly looks likely to pass at least $500 million in state dollar cuts to health care over the next two years for low income people on NC’s Medicaid program. And Medicaid is a major way both UNC/Rex and WakeMed pay their bills.
Add to this the discussion in Washington where cuts from $400 billion to nearly $1 trillion over ten years to Medicaid are on the table. And in Washington, there is also discussion of “block granting” the Medicaid program. Block grants and other such limits on federal Medicaid spending don’t adjust for an aging population, another state recession that means more people on Medicaid , or disasters like a serious epidemic. They would be devastating to North Carolina’s budget and people.
The cuts to Medicaid under discussion at the state and federal levels are a serious threat to the financial health of both UNC and WakeMed. Not to mention a serious threat to the health of thousands of lower-income children, older adults and people with serious disabilities in our entire state – since those are the people who get Medicaid. WakeMed and UNC/Rex should be having a joint press conference condemning these cuts to health care for our most vulnerable citizens instead of issuing dueling statements over ridiculous “hostile takeover” offers.