Adam Searing is the Director of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition. My one experience with Adam was watching his downtrodden and negative take on healthcare at a Chapel Hill forum. That and he doesn't support the push for UHC at this time, which I disagree with. He's been fighting for healthcare reform longer than any of us, but I think maybe he needs a change of scenery.
That aside, he has put together a good postmortem on why the high risk pool died a lonely death (PDF). It is easy to see why Mr. Searing (his resume says graduate degrees in law and public health, but I don't think they are Ph.D.s, if so, I apologize) is downtrodden on healthcare reform in North Carolina. The high risk pool would have covered somewhere between 9,000 - 20,000 North Carolinians. There are 1.5 million uninsured. This bill would have covered 0.1% of them, and it didn't pass. I'll cut and paste a few things after the break, but the PDF is a good read.
BLUE CROSS AND THE HIGH RISK POOL BILL: "We support the bill as it was delivered from the House to the Senate. We didn't do anything to kill it." -- said Blue Cross spokesperson Lew Borman. Most North Carolinians make about 1% of the nonprofit Blue Cross CEO’s $2.5 million salary, but that doesn’t mean they are 1% as smart. I watched some of Blue Cross’s eight registered lobbyists work awfully hard on something – and every rumor I heard confirmed Blue Cross’s opposition to the bill. Why is this important? Without understanding and addressing the politics behind the failure of this particular piece of very conservative health reform, North Carolina will never be able to move towards an economy where every person has affordable health care.
How do we plan to defeat a company that has a God-awful plan for the state employees, which you pay for, did you know that? You pay for the lousy healthcare plan of North Carolina state employees? And, they have 8 full-time registered lobbyists. Not to mention the meetings that legislators take AT BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD.
MOVING FORWARD ON THE HIGH RISK POOL: Regardless of how the high risk pool bill was killed, its demise does not speak well for the prospects of health reform in North Carolina. If this most conservative of health reforms couldn’t make it through the General Assembly, then other major statewide reforms that actually cost money – like a small business deep-discount health insurance plan – have little chance of success. What’s needed is statewide leadership on health from someone with a bully pulpit and the ability to bring all players in health reform to the table – and keep them there. Otherwise any real reform has little chance of passage. This means a leader like the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, key members of the Council of State, or leaders in the House or Senate. Whichever leader takes the issue on will need the help and support of longtime health champions and leaders in the General Assembly like Representative Verla Insko and Senator Bill Purcell. They’ve been able to do much, but need help from someone with statewide office.