N.C. panel analyzes health care reform

Will localize national policy changes

President Barack Obama might have succeeded in passing comprehensive health care reform last spring, but actually implementing the hundreds of pages in legislation is a daunting task that the state is preparing to tackle.

Even though most of the laws don’t go into effect until 2014, North Carolina has formed a panel of health care experts to make sure the transition to the new law is as smooth as possible.

The panel, which began meeting this month, will make recommendations not only to Gov. Bev Perdue but also to the N.C. General Assembly and executive branches on how best to adjust to the new laws.

“Our goal is to best implement the law in North Carolina,” said Pam Silberman, project director of the advisory panel and president and CEO of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, an independent agency that provides information on health issues affecting the state.

The bill is made up of many individual provisions or changes to health care. The panel is collaborating with eight different work groups that will look at different parts of the bill, Silberman said.

“We are looking at all aspects of the bill to make informed decisions,” Silberman said. We tried to pick people who would be knowledgeable in each one.”

Each work group is made up of 30 to 40 people. Some of the issues they are looking to address include prevention, Medicaid, expansion of community health centers and school-based health centers, health insurance exchanges and improving the quality of health care.

While most health care changes will not take effect until 2014, some have already been implemented or will be in the near future.

“Some things are happening quickly,” Silberman said. “We are trying to anticipate what comes and figure out what is needed by the state.”

One of the provisions that could affect students is that, starting next month, anyone under 26 will be able to stay on their parent’s health care plan even if they are not in school.

Silberman said a big question for students concerning health care reform is whether the mandatory health insurance for students in the UNC system, which was implemented this year, will coincide with the law.

Bruce Mallette, senior associate vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, said that now there are no issues concerning the mandatory health insurance in the UNC system.

“If there are any adjustments needed we will make them,” Mallette said. “As of today there is nothing to be changed.”

Adam Searing, project director for the North Carolina Health Access Coalition, said North Carolina is in better shape than other states in preparing for the transition to the new laws because the state has an organized health care community. But there are some who are concerned about the new laws.

N.C. Sen. Harris Blake, R-Harnett, who is on the state health care committee, said he was concerned about the health care bill and cost of health care.

“If this plan goes into effect, we can look forward to a decline in quality and access in health care,” Blake said. “I am very worried about governmental involvement in health care.”

Silberman and Searing both said it was too early for the advisory panel to start making recommendations to the state government.

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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