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Sen. Apodaca is (mostly) right about UNC Health Care bill

As most folks know by now there is an open battle raging [1]between UNC and WakeMed, two great Triangle hospital systems. WakeMed has taken its gripes with UNC, some of them perfectly legitimate, to the General Assembly.

You can read Chris Fitzsimon’s column [2] about what happened next: a bill that few legislators had read sprang up in committee and narrowly passed by a voice vote.

Chris, and any one else paying attention, criticized the process. These surprise votes at odd hours have been all too common in the House. But the bill was also bad policy.

Sen. Tom Apodaca quickly put out a statement that qualifies as one of the more humorous press releases of the year so far. It read, in part:

“One of the biggest challenges facing North Carolina’s health care industry is the uncertainty in the market created by Obamacare. I am concerned that additional government intrusion into the state health care market will create even more uncertainty, making it more difficult for health care providers to treat patients, search for cures, and train doctors.

“If this bill comes over to the Senate, I will move it to the Rules Committee where it will receive the same careful consideration as some of the other fine ideas we’ve received from the House like ‘The Bed Bug Bill.’”

Now Apodaca is overly critical of “Obamacare” even though UNC Health Care CEO Bill Roper endorsed the legislation and thinks it will be good for the hospital. Health reform was also, by the way, endorsed by the American Hospital Association.

But he is correct that now is not the time to start tipping hospital balance sheets. As we move toward 2014 hospitals are facing new regulations, new reimbursement formulas, and new competitive pressures. Ultimately, health reform will benefit hospitals and patients.

In the meantime, we should be careful not to heap new burdens on one of the state’s most important health care systems.