AdamL's blog

North Carolina Senate has taken a reasonable approach on health benefits exchange

If you read the news lately you might think that Sen. Phil Berger has taken the approach of South Carolina or Louisiana in rejecting a state-based health benefits exchange. As a reminder, an exchange is an organization that will allow individuals to shop for insurance in a standardized, understandable way and purchase policies at group rates. Each state can set up its own exchange, have the federal government set up an exchange on its behalf, or establish a partnership exchange between the feds and the state.

As another reminder, the NC Institute of Medicine convened meetings among stakeholders of every stripe to discuss how an exchange should be structured. That group came to a general consensus about legislation where everyone got something but no one got everything they wanted.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina had its friends (Reps. Brubaker and Dockham) ignore the IOM recommendations and file a bill that gave the state’s largest insurer everything it wanted. (The North Carolina Medical Society also had some input on the bill.) The House moved the legislation along despite objections from a wide range of organizations that the bill was fatally flawed and probably not compliant with federal regulations.

Then this clunker landed in the Senate. The Senate took a short look and many folks concluded that this thing needed a serious overhaul. But with budget writing and other priorities there was not much time to fix the broken bill sent from the House. So Berger wisely took a pass.

Hospitals lose sight of public mission

If you haven't read the revealing five part series on hospitals in North Carolina reported jointly by the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer, please do. This is the definition of good and important journalism. It is tragic that some nonprofit hospitals have lost their way, paying millions to executives while soaking patients. Carolinas HealthCare is busy suing Vietnam Veterans and attaching liens on the homes of people who struggle to get by while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer support.

Please watch the video we made with Joyce Jones, one of the people profiled in the series. And go to the Facebook page of Carolinas HealthCare and ask them to change their ways.

Video below the fold.

Insurance Commissioners got you a turkey for Thanksgiving

Unless you are an insurance commissioner or an insurance industry lobbyist you probably don’t think much about the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC is a national professional organization of state insurance commissioners. While the NAIC has always enjoyed some power and prestige its importance was elevated by the passage of national health reform.

One would imagine that this group would be sympathetic to consumers. It is, after all, an organization of insurance regulators. But a key NAIC vote last week revealed otherwise.

For more background on the vote see this News & Observer editorial by Consumer Reports President Jim Guest. In short, the Affordable Care Act created a new rule that insurance companies must start spending a minimum amount of each premium dollar on health care. This rule means that in the future insurers will spend more on your medical treatments and less on executive pay, trips to Cabo, fancy new buildings, and agent commissions. It turns out (surprise!) that agents don’t like the idea of insurance companies spending less on commissions.

So insurance agents are trying to effectively reclassify commissions as medical care or quality improvement. Last week the NAIC took up the issue and voted on a resolution urging Congress and Health & Human Services to weaken health reform and suspend or delay implementation of the new rules.

Sadly, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the motion for the resolution and voted in favor of this ill conceived recommendation.

More budget pain spelled out at meeting tomorrow

An important Medicaid advisory committee will gather at the McKimmon Center tomorrow morning from 9 to 12 to discuss the disastrous budget that was approved by the legislature after overriding a veto from Gov. Perdue.

Now Perdue is being forced to slash medical care to some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens. This advisory committee will discuss options for cutting Medicaid including reducing physician pay and ending critical services.

Rep. Renee Ellmers revives death panel lie (VIDEO)

US Rep. Renee Ellmers is no stranger to stretching the truth. But now that she is on the defensive for supporting the budget proposals of Rep. Paul Ryan, proposals that would turn Medicare into a voucher program, she is telling some of the biggest whoppers of her career. In this short clip she tries to revive the death panel lie, telling her audience in Rocky Mount that a physician will have to submit a request to a 15 person panel before performing surgery. Video below.

Thanks to Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. No thanks to commissioners who voted to weaken health reform.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin was one of only three insurance commissioners on a key national task force who refused to endorse a plan that would weaken consumer protections in the new federal health care law.

This issue is complicated but critical.

The task force is part of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which is essentially a trade group of insurance commissioners across the country. Yesterday this task force considered a proposal that would undermine a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend a certain percentage of premiums on health care instead of on executive salaries, lobbying, marketing, and insurance agent commissions.

Help defend health reform!

North Carolinians are lucky to have a strong insurance commissioner who cares about consumers. Besides serving our state, Commissioner Wayne Goodwin also holds several important positions in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). This gives him an important role in influencing national health policy. Right now we need your help to defend a key consumer protection of federal health reform.

Want to know which side your legislator is on? Watch today's vote on the health insurance exchange.

There are those defining issues raised in the General Assembly every so often that pit the state’s most powerful interest groups against the needs of consumers and average citizens. The vote on today’s health benefits exchange is one such issue.


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