Viewpoint: Attacks on Vidant Health CEO jeopardize healthcare in North Carolina

Public criticism of hospital leaders from North Carolina's treasurer and a state employees union is "unprofessional, irresponsible and continues to jeopardize healthcare for" North Carolina residents, according to an editorial written by local news station WRAL.

The dispute comes as Treasurer Dale Folwell aims to make changes to how the State Health Plan reimburses hospitals and providers, moving the health plan and its nearly 730,000 members to a government-pricing model instead of a commercial model.

Mr. Folwell agreed to increase payments to hospitals by $116 million and reopen the sign-up period for hospitals to join the State Health Plan's network in a "final offer" to appease providers, according to the report. At the same time, the State Employees Association of North Carolina launched what WRAL called a "mean-spirited personal attack" on Greenville, N.C.-based Vidant Health CEO Michael Waldrum, MD. 

Specifically, a video released by SEANC framed Dr. Waldrum as profit-motivated. In response, WRAL's editorial team said: "Vidant operations are overseen by a board that has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain financial viability. This isn't just about Waldrum. It is the board and Waldrum who must do the right things for the non-profit's operations, for the employees and the patients. The reality is that without that 'profit' many of those the system serves in the poorest region of the state will go without any care at all."

Hospitals and providers that don't sign Mr. Folwell's Clear Pricing Project may become out of network for State Health Plan members beginning Jan. 1. To date, only a number of the state's 126 hospitals have signed on, along with 27,000 providers, according to the report.

For its part, SEANC told healthcare systems in a recent Facebook message to "do the right thing ... sign the State Health Plan contract," according to the Winston-Salem Journal. It continued: "Are you really going to turn your back on the 130,000 teachers, troopers and civil servants in your community? Tell them we're done paying for overpriced care and our SHP is no longer their piggy bank."

Ultimately, WRAL editors said, "[Mr.] Folwell and the hospital systems need, now, to sit together and work out a program that provides economic stability for the providers and a cost-effective plan for state workers, their dependents and retirees."

Read more here.

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