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Councilman opposes health plan proposal

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The Rev. Richard Joyner

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From Staff Reports

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Rocky Mount Councilman the Rev. Richard Joyner has lent his voice to an effort opposing State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s proposed cuts to State Health Plan reimbursements.

Vidant Health is working to build a grass-roots opposition movement, dubbed Stand Up for ENC, to the proposal it says will cut revenues by $40 million and force it to significantly curtail services.

Proposed changes to the health plan would reduce reimbursement rates to care providers by 14 percent on average, according to  Folwell, saving $300 million for taxpayers and $65 million for plan members annually.

Providers say the cuts would impede services across the state and disproportionately affect institutions like Vidant that care for large indigent populations. They say there are less disruptive ways to achieve savings.

“We think there is a better solution,” Vidant CEO Mark Waldrum told a group of Eastern North Carolina pastors during a recent meeting at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville. “We think there needs to be better oversight of this process. And we are asking our legislators to stop the train from rolling over us ... because it plays out in our community more significantly.”

Of the $400 million in cuts proposed by the state treasurer, Vidant would stand to lose $40 million a year, which Vidant officials say would impact services, job opportunities and community support.

“Vidant is practicing sustainable health care on a community-based level,” said Joyner, pastor of Conetoe Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.

His community nutrition initiative and work on behalf of local farmers rely on organizations like Vidant for support and sustainability, he said.

“It is critical that Vidant has taken that road, to practice health care not just at the institutional level but at the community level, with transparency,” Joyner said.

He and other community members said they recognize the domino effect massive cuts would have on business, economic and educational opportunities throughout Eastern North Carolina.

“We want a plan that we’re involved in creating — not a plan that is imposed upon us that we have to respond to,” Joyner said. “We want a collaborative resolution that supports our communities in a sustainable way.”

Supporters of the health plan reforms are sympathetic to the needs of the uninsured and underinsured, said Robert Broome, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is working to rally state employees and others to support the changes. However, those needs should be addressed separately, he said.

“They’re fighting the right fight in the wrong place,” Broome said. “This state needs to have a serious discussion and a debate about how we pay for uninsured care, and the State Employees Association recognizes that is a conversation worth having and we want to be there for that. But this does not need to be balanced on the backs of taxpayers and balanced on the backs of state employees, teachers and retirees.”

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