Letter to the Editor: N.C. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) on the 'health care hurricane'
The people of rural North Carolina (east and west) face unique challenges. Those of us located east of Interstate 95 share many of the same hardships and we have been in the same boat for years.
I have recently spent many hours in Pitt County with fellow lawmakers, and our brothers and sisters who work in health care. I was there again Friday evening, meeting with people on the subject of planned changes to the State Health Plan. (In fairness, I should remind you that I am a State Employee, and I am enrolled in that State Health Plan). I have also met with other organizations from other counties, who have shared their concerns on the topic.
Access to health care in rural areas is a huge issue for our population, and one that can be difficult to understand if you live in an urban area containing medical options on every street corner. One statewide decision may be barely acknowledged in Wake and Mecklenburg County, but it may be devastating to Lenoir, Wayne, Greene, Duplin, Sampson, Jones, Martin, Bertie, Pitt or other counties.
Stated simplistically, our nationwide system of health care has been built on the concept that some do indeed pay more to cover the costs for those who can’t aﬀord care. I did not create this system, but that is certainly how it works.
The same is true for Vidant Health; it serves people in 29 counties, representing roughly 15 percent of our state population.
They do make profit in a few locations, and this allows them to provide funding to cover losses in the rural locations. If we take away that profit, they could no longer fund operational losses at the small, rural locations that take care of your grandmother or your Uncle John. If the rural health care location is not open, or does not have many services, Grandma would then have to drive two hours for her care — if she gets any care at all.
The other option is that Grandma now has to relocate to a more densely populated area — IF she can aﬀord it — leaving behind her family, friends and her way of life.
I "get" Eastern North Carolina because I grew up here. I did not have health insurance as a child and I was raised by a single mother. That fancy MBA I earned helped me learn to understand data sets and income statements, but growing up with my toes in the dirt helped me understand ENC. I have serious concerns for the people of the east, and what this idea would mean to them. We also can’t forget all of the retired (and current) teachers and other state employees (like me) who live in rural areas.
Regardless of political parties, associations, aﬃliations or any special interest groups, there are still reasonable people left in this world. I ask all of you to spend some time understanding this issue. Ignore the hyperbole and find objective truth. Look at all information, not just what one side wishes for you to see.
I applaud our state treasurer for raising awareness on this issue that has been building for years. I applaud his eﬀorts to reduce costs, and I believe he is highlighting issues that we want our treasurer, and certainly a CPA, to notice. His skillset is why so many of us voted for him. He is 100 percent right in that we must control the growth of cost to the plan. He is an accountant, and he is great with numbers.
This is about more than numbers, however — this is also about people and we can't forget them. The people in the rural areas, the people of the east, have been forgotten too many times. This man-made "health care hurricane" would be another round of devastation for rural North Carolina.
It is poor governance to allow decisions of such magnitude to be made in a vacuum, and without consideration of the unintended, negative consequences. It is my hope that we all work together to find ways to address these very real issues. We can find better solutions without throwing the people of the east into the path of another hurricane.
Senator Jim Perry
N.C. Senate District 7
Wayne and Lenoir