Tuesday, 18 June 2019 11:29

Big physician network signs onto state treasurer’s pricing program

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RALEIGH — State Treasurer Dale Folwell has reeled in a big fish. 

With a deadline just 13 days away, Community Care Physician Network, North Carolina’s largest network of independent physician clinics, announced Monday, June 17, it signed on to the State Health Plan’s cost-cutting Clear Pricing Project.


Community Care Physician Network is associated with 2,500 primary care clinicians, pediatricians, family medicine physicians, obstetricians/gynecologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. The group has more than 880 practices statewide. The network treats more than 2.5 million North Carolinians, including 700,000 Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Their physicians are leaders in our state in developing the highly regarded medical home model. They’re known nationwide for high quality care, patient satisfaction and by using their innovative, collaborative approach to drive down costs,” Folwell said in a news release announcing the move.

Folwell says health care costs must be reduced immediately. The State Health Plan is only 3% funded, has $35 billion in unfunded liabilities, and will become insolvent in 2023. The Treasurer’s Office projects taxpayers could save $258 million and plan members $57 million annually under the Clear Pricing Project. The changes take place in 2020. Providers have until June 30 to join the project.

“It made good sense to us,” Conrad Flick, Community Care Physician Network co-president, said of linking with the reconstructed plan. “We’re dedicated to our communities and our patients, and focused on providing them with better and more cost-effective health care.”

Efficient and quality health care start with primary care, he said in the news release. The organization supports affordable, outcome- and value-based health care models. Those goals, along with pricing transparency, and empowering consumers to make more decisions about their health care, are the pillars of Folwell’s reform plan.

During his monthly teleconference with reporters June 4, Folwell cited momentum in getting providers to sign up for the Clear Pricing Project. He projected some medical providers would join closer to the June 30 deadline.

The N.C. Healthcare Association, the lobbying arm of hospitals and large health systems, continues to oppose Folwell’s plan. The group pushed for passage of House Bill 184 to halt the reforms and launch a two-year study instead. The House passed the measure, but it has gotten no traction in the Senate.

Hospitals say the cost-cutting features of Folwell’s plan jeopardize the survival of rural hospitals. Folwell said most rural hospitals will be better off financially under the plan, and nine of 10 primary care physicians will get more money.

Montana is among a handful of states that use the reference-based pricing model for their state health plans. Officials there told Carolina Journal the results are positive.