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Old North State Report

March 22, 2019

Old North State Report – March 22, 2019

Hospital Reimbursements:

NC Treasurer Dale Folwell has agreed to increase the annual reimbursement rates for many of the state’s rural hospitals by $52 million as part of the State Health Plan’s revised “Clear Pricing Project.”  Though still controversial, and not supported by the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) and most providers, Folwell argues the revision will increase payments to providers by 20% from the original proposal, while saving taxpayers $258 million and plan members $57 million.  According to NCHA, the revised proposal only adds more tax dollars onto a failing system.

Bill to Study State Health Plan Design:

Meanwhile, a bill filed in February to stop the Treasurer from making changes to the State Health Plan has been placed on the calendar in the House Health Policy Committee for next Tuesday (March 26th).  HB184, “Study State Health Plan Design,” would create a study group tasked with examining the State Health Plan, specifically how the Plan currently pays hospitals and providers, along with proposed changes for the Plan and stakeholder concerns.  If the bill passes favorably through House Health Policy, it will be referred to House Insurance, and subsequently to House Rules.

Broadband Order:

NC Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order this week authorizing a “Dig Once” policy to help make it possible for broadband infrastructure installation to coincide with scheduled road projects so to reduce repeated excavations.  The order calls for the Department of Transportation, Department of Information Technology and local governments to work collaboratively to expand broadband internet access in North Carolina. 

Broadband Legislation:

The General Assembly also weighed in this week on the issue of expanding broadband internet access in North Carolina.  On Tuesday, House Bill 387 (Electric Co-op Rural Broadband Services) was introduced by Representatives Arp, Szoka, Lewis, and Hunter and co-sponsored by ninety members.  The legislation is aimed at facilitating the deployment of affordable, high-speed broadband in areas of North Carolina where it is lacking or unavailable.  A companion Senate Bill 310 was introduced this week by Senators Brown, Newton and Woodard and has forty co-sponsors. 

Also this week, House Bill 431 (FIBER NC Act) was introduced by Representatives Dobson, Szoka, Lewis, and Corbin with ten co-sponsors and would allow cities, towns and counties to build broadband internet infrastructure and lease it to private internet providers. 

Clearly, the legislature is keenly interested in expanding access to high-speed broadband across North Carolina.