North Carolina’s first-term treasurer is quickly becoming a favorite among conservatives for his tough stance on fixing the state’s fiscal responsibilities.
Dale Folwell, a Winston-Salem CPA with a long history of public service, has spent his first two years in this office moving billions of dollars away from Wall Street hedge fund managers and bringing them in-house. He’s whittled hundreds of people from the state health insurance plan who aren’t supposed to be there.
Now he’s taking on the state’s health care costs, but there are signs that he might be wading into tricky political territory. In the long run, however, Folwell appears to be making the right bet.
What’s happening with Dale Folwell and the State Health Plan
As state treasurer, Folwell is in charge of the $3 billion per year State Health Plan, which provides insurance coverage for more than 720,000 state workers and their families.
As healthcare costs spiral ever upwards nationally, Folwell is taking a closer look at what North Carolina is paying. He’s said publicly that statewide giants Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and UNC Health Care haven’t fully disclosed what they’re charging us, and has pushed to cut reimbursement rates to hospital groups.
Basically, that would use the big pockets of the state to force price concessions, much like the federal government does with Medicaid and Medicare. That saves both the state and the state employees money.
But this is obviously very troubling to the insurance and hospital industries — two of the most powerful and well-funded lobbying groups in the state. They give, and give heavily, to Republican candidates.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina is now sounding the alarm that the General Assembly is secretly crafting legislation to strip Folwell of his responsibility for the State Health Plan.
It’s unclear who specifically would be behind this, but lame duck House appropriations chairman Nelson Dollar is a well-known advocate for the hospital industry.
Such a bill would risk alienating thousands of conservative voters.
Fiscal conservatism is a core principle of the overwhelming majority of North Carolina’s Republicans. While it’s become a cliche and mostly meaningless, these voters also aren’t thrilled when politicians act beholden to special interests. Yes, the hospital industry qualifies.
Folwell is their champion in this battle, putting principles over politics. General Assembly leadership would be wise to follow his lead, not squash it.