Up & Coming Weekly

September 29, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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10 UCW SEPTEMBER 30-OCTOBER 6, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Cooper gives districts chance to reopen clasrooms by LINDSAY MARCHELLO School districts can allow elementary grade students to return to the classroom next month, Gov. Roy Cooper announced during a Sept. 17 news conference, but middle and high school students won't have the same opportunity. e announcement — allowing local school districts to provide in-person instruction full- time to younger students — comes a day after Republican leaders urged the governor to offer that option at all levels statewide and let parents decide. e move is a step in the right direction, Sen- ate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a ursday news release, but the governor should have gone further with his decision. "His new plan ignores the needs of low-income and exceptional students in middle and high schools for in-person instruction," Berger said. On Sept. 16, Berger, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Catherine Truitt, the Republican can- didate for state superintendent, called for schools to fully reopen. A handful of parents took part in the news conference to share their desperation with the remote instruction plans. Cooper said the move wasn't connected to Wednesday's news conference at the General Assembly. Over the summer, the state told school districts to create three reopening plans, from most to least restrictive. Plan A had the fewest restric- tions, allowing in-person instruction with minimal social distancing of students and staff. Plan B required more stringent social distanc- ing and fewer people in the school building. Under Plan C, schools could use only remote learning. On July 14, Cooper an- nounced school districts could either use Plan B or Plan C. No school district was allowed to offer Plan A, regardless of the COVID-19 metrics in the area. But now, starting on Oct. 5, school districts can switch to plan A for kindergarten through fifth grade, but older grade levels must stay on either plan B or C. "We are able to open this op- tion because most North Carolinians have dou- bled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers," Cooper said. Face masks and social distancing are still re- quired under Plan A, but unlike Plan B, schools won't have to reduce the number of students allowed in the building at the same time. Neither Cooper, nor Mandy Cohen, the secre- tary of the state Department of Health and Hu- man Services, gave a timeline for when middle and high schools grades can return to classrooms full-time. NEWS North Carolina School districts may allow elementary students to return to classrooms in October. LINDSAY MARCHELLO, Carolina Jour- nal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. State treasurer waives insulin co-pays for state employees by JULIE HAVLAK Diabetic state employees soon won't have to swallow the rising cost of insulin. State Treasurer Dale Folwell waived co- pays on insulin prescriptions for members of the State Health Plan, starting Jan. 1, 2021. Folwell hopes to save members $5 million. Insulin has become a flashpoint in the debate over drug pricing. e cost of the drug has nearly tripled since 2002, forcing patients to start ration- ing their insulin. Some have died. Others have gone blind. More than a million North Carolinians suffer from diabetes. Some 12,000 state employees use insulin, and they're paying an average $467 out of pocket each year for brand insulin. But that price tag can rise as high as $1,000. The State Health Plan Board of Trustees voted to nix insulin cost sharing earlier this year. It hopes to prevent patients from ra- tioning insulin and putting themselves at risk for expensive and potentially life-threatening complications. "is is a good investment by the State Health Plan," Folwell told Carolina Journal. "Insulin adherence saves lives and saves money. We all don't want the cost of insulin to be a barrier." Insulin was prohibitively expensive for some families, says Ardis Watkins, executive director of the State Employees Association of N.C. She has talked to patients who rationed their insulin, say- ing that their diabetes hurt family finances. "It's a huge deal, what just happened," Watkins told CJ. "Insulin can mean life or death. It's im- moral for those medications to make the differ- ence of the family's budget every month." Folwell has long railed against the rising cost of health care. e Republican treasurer forged an unlikely alliance with SEANC after he started a war with hospitals over medical billing transparency. e State Health Plan risks going broke within four years. It faces some $35 billion in unfunded liabilities. Folwell wants to save the plan by linking prices to Medicare payments. The plan now faces a significant risk of overpay- ing or wasting tens of millions of dollars, based on a report by the state auditor. Folwell has described the current system as a blank check. Folwell hoped to usher providers into the Clear Pricing Project — his plan to drive down costs with billing transparency. But the plan sparked a feud with local hos- pital systems, who refused reforms. But enrollment has reopened for provid- ers. Folwell seems to be focusing on re- cruiting independent providers to join the plan. ey can't charge patients as many fees as hospitals do. "We're having fantastic negotiations, especially with independent providers of health care that are excited for the first time that some- one recognizes that they exist," Folwell said. "We want independent, profitable, accessible, high-quality health care providers." JULIE HAVLAK, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. e cost of insulin has nearly tripled since 2002, forcing some patients to ration their insulin. Co-pays for state employees have been waived starting Jan. 1, 2021.

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