RALEIGH — Opponents to State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s changes to the North Carolina State Employees Health Plan responded with a campaign of graffiti.
Messages in support of a bill to stop changes to the state health plan were found stenciled on sidewalks around the state capitol, legislative buildings and retail areas in Raleigh last week.
The messages say “720,000 voters want you to protect their healthcare. PassHB184.com.”
The website address in the stenciled messages redirects to the North Carolina Healthcare Association. Cynthia Charles, vice president of communications and public relations for the NCHA, said that the association used a vendor to place the painted stencils around Raleigh but would not name the vendor in a call with NSJ.
“I think the stencils speak for themselves,” said Charles. “But the intent is to make people aware that there is healthcare at risk for more than 720,000 health plan members and where people can go for more information.”
House Bill 184 is a bill which seeks to end Folwell’s reforms to the state health plan. The bill passed through the House but has stalled in a Senate committee since April 4. After the House vote, Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), told NSJ that Berger “would be hesitant to involve the legislature in micromanaging a plan that we authorized the treasurer to manage just a few years ago.”
Folwell said the group responsible for the stencils and other attacks are in favor of “secret contracts” and are not interested in transparency.
“I don’t think any of your readers will want me as their state treasurer spending nearly $3 billion dollars of state and taxpayer money when we don’t know what we’re getting,” Folwell told North State Journal in an interview.
As previously reported by North State Journal, an analysis by the legislature’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division found if House Bill 184 was passed and signed into law, the cost could be as high as $264 million annually depending on the year.
Treasurer Folwell said the messages were just “the latest” in a series of attempts to blunt the state health plan reforms, which involves the use of “reference-based pricing,” requiring healthcare providers to adjust their prices relative to current Medicare reimbursement rates.
“This week it’s desecrating government property,” said Folwell, adding that “the state capitol police need to look into this.”
A week ago, the dispute over the health plan changes turned personal when an email written by Frank Kauder, an assistant director of finance for Moses Cone Hospital, was published by news outlet WXII and told state leaders to “Burn in hell, you sorry SOBs.”
Kauder also wrote that “your plan to cut payments to hospitals could possibly be the most moronic idea I have ever seen come out of state government, and since you retardicians have taken power, and that’s saying a lot.”
The skirmish over rates in North Carolina comes after President Donald Trump issued an executive order in late June which would pressure health-care providers and insurance companies to disclose information about their prices.