Why the WakeMed v. Rex/UNC Hospital “buyout” dispute is ridiculous

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.


  1. CF

    May 12, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    What is the percentage of Medicaid and Uninsured seen in both hospitals?

  2. Anon

    May 13, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Rex sends any and all uninsured patients to Wakemed. If WakeMed were to acquire Rex, it would only mean more available options for the uninsured.

  3. Adam Searing

    May 13, 2011 at 7:32 am

    PR folks – give me a break. I’ll just reiterate my point. This is simply a distraction from the biggest threat for vulnerable elderly, low income children and people with serious disabilities in years – the prospect of enormous Medicaid cuts at the state and federal levels. These cuts will mean more sick people who can’t get health services and that’s not good for anyone, including both UNC and WakeMed.

  4. Anon

    May 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I am just an interested individual who is simply offering my two cents. I cannot even tell you with 100% conviction whether or not I support the merger seeing as it is almost impossible to understand the complexities of the issue without being on the inside.

    On that note, it is naive to consider this “simply a distraction” as it may not only have major implications on the healthcare landscape in Wake county, but it could also result in a significant reduction of the state deficit, and in turn reduce the broad-sweeping cuts to state funded programs that you so adamantly (and rightfully) oppose.

  5. Adam Searing

    May 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Again, give me a break. “reduce the state deficit”? We are talking about recurring cuts – that means $300+ million out of the state funding of the Medicaid program (nearly a billion when combined with the federal money that the state money brings down) EVERY YEAR! This “deal” wouldn’t even fill that gap for one year.

    Second, WakeMed just looks silly making this argument. All I’ve heard from Bill is how they take care of so many more uninsured patients and that puts them in a bad financial position. Now it turns out that they are in such a good financial position that they can offer nearly $1 billion to go out an buy something. So which is it – Wake is hurting because it is seeing too many uninsured patients or Wake is doing great and can make billion dollar offers?

    This move is a disservice to the many people at WakeMed who work very, very hard taking of everyone in Wake – including the lowest income people in the area. How about using some of all this money to pay the doctors, nurses, PAs, etc involved in primary care more for all the good work they put in? And maybe get them some more help as well. That would be right in line with Wake’s nonprofit mission.

  6. Anon

    May 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    If WakeMed bought out Rex, perhaps Rex’s overbilling of Medicaid would no longer be a challenge facing the longterm status of Medicaid programs. Then again maybe not…

    As far as the extra cash goes, I agree it could be spent in better places. It is undoubtedly true that many public health related employees are underpaid for their important services, but I don’t think doctors qualify for the “underpaid” category.

  7. Del James

    May 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    We are keeping a keen eye on this at Piedmont Medical Center…

  8. Tina

    June 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    As a healthcare consumer I have just a few questions. It is my understanding the medicare and medicaid costs are paid according to the diagnosis (DRG) at the contracted/legislative level. How would who owns Rex make a difference? Billing, overbilling, and billing error happens in all healthcare instutions. As someone who has been involved in billing in UNCH, Duke. and Wake Med., I see little difference and about the same errors. This should be a look at healthcare that is the best possible not a budget issue for a state that is deep in the red. It seems to me that this buy is not going to be a billion dollar check that can be cashed once and cure the budget. What will happen next year? It would also be interesting how much the State puts into the operation at UNCH.
    I bet the percentage would not be as much as people think.

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