GREENSBORO, N.C. — State Treasurer Dale Folwell's Clear Pricing Project was billed as an attempt to increase transparency for state employees' medical visits.
But since the plan was rolled out, it has sparked a war of words between the treasurer's office and Cone Health, and even a burning email from a Cone Health employee that included some foul language.
So we spoke with the treasurer to ask him several questions.
Q: "What happens if the state health plan isn't accepted by Cone Health or other hospitals?"
A: "We're still working with all of those providers. But I'm pleased to report that 27,000 providers of health care have signed on to the Clear Pricing Project" the treasurer said. He emphasized that they want hospitals like Cone Health to sign on because they're often some of the only choices in some neighborhoods in Greensboro.
At least one Democrat says he hasn't rejected the plan but wants more time to review its impact. State senator Michael Garrett sent WFMY News 2 a statement saying in part:
"...We should study the impact of the Treasurer’s plan before putting it in place and that is why the Senate should immediately take up House Bill 184 to do just that.”
Garrett also condemned the tone of the Cone Health employee's email.
Treasurer Folwell had this to say: "It's [Clear Pricing Project] been looked at, in 1990, 2000, and 2010. This has been looked at for 30 years. And it's the reason why the state health plan is one of the most insolvent in the United States behind the state of Illinois. I've opened my door and my mind and my heart to Senator Garrett to come by and let us explain what clear pricing is and how it's going to benefit the teachers, the troopers, and the other state employees across this area."
Cone Health's CEO also said in an internal email that the Clear Pricing Project would cost the hospital an additional $26 million. We asked the treasurer where that number came from.
He says he's an accounting major and has no idea where that number came from. He went on to say that Cone Health says the state health plan makes up only 5% of their revenue but they claim that it will cost them 50% of their profit.
"All your viewers know that those two numbers just don't add up," he added.
We reached out to Cone Health for any additional statements. They directed us to a previous statement.
“Because of the reductions in services this would lead to, Cone Health has no choice but to decline joining the State Health Insurance Clear Pricing Project. The Clear Pricing Project would take $26 million from Cone Health. This will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, services we provide daily. Thereby increasing the risk of our ability to invest in the future. If we accept this contract, then other payers may push for similar terms. Our commitment to provide exceptional care to the communities we serve will be impossible to carry out. Cone Health cares for thousands of hard-working teachers, troopers and others. Many of our employees are the spouses of or count family among those who obtain health insurance through the state. These are the people hurt by the state treasurer's actions.
There are better options. Cone Health has a proven record of holding the line on costs, not by paying less for medical services, but by helping people need fewer medical services. Still, the treasurer has turned a deaf ear on our repeated pleas to work collaboratively to switch state employees to a plan where clear and sustained cost savings are achieved, not simply a reduction in prices. We urge state employees to voice their objection to the Clear Pricing Project's lack of hospital coverage by contacting their lawmakers. We also encourage them to take advantage of other insurance options during the fall benefits enrollment period.”