Up & Coming Weekly

April 11, 2023

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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4 UCW APRIL 12 - 18, 2023 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM STAFF PUBLISHER Bill Bowman Bill@upandcomingweekly.com OPERATIONS DIRECTOR Paulette Naylor accounting@upandcomingweekly.com MANAGING EDITOR April Olsen editor@upandcomingweekly.com ASSISTANT EDITOR Hannah Lee assistanteditor@upandcomingweekly. com ART DIRECTOR Courtney Sapp-Scott art@upandcomingweekly.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Isaiah Jones graphics@upandcomingweekly.com STAFF WRITERS Alyson Hansen Ashley Shirley Kathleen Ramsey Chayenne Burns Katrina Wilson CONTRIBUTING WRITERS John Hood, Margaret Dickson, Pitt Dickey, David Bass, Becky Vohoska Rose, Aubrette Reid MARKETING ASSOCIATE Linda McAlister linda@upandcomingweekly.com DISTRIBUTION MANAGER/SALES ADMINISTRATOR Paulette Naylor accounting@upandcomingweekly.com COVER Design by Isaiah Jones Images courtesy the Karen Chandler Trust Up & Coming Weekly www.upandcomingweekly.com 208 Rowan St. P.O. Box 53461 Fayetteville, NC 28305 PHONE: 910-484-6200- FAX: 910-484-9218 Up & Coming Weekly is a "Quality of Life" publication with local features, news and information on what's happening in and around the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community. Published weekly on Wednesdays, Up & Coming Weekly welcomes manuscripts, photographs and artwork for publication consideration, but assumes no responsibility for them. We cannot accept responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts or material. Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to edit or reject copy submitted for publication. Up & Coming Weekly is free of charge and distributed at indoor and outdoor locations throughout Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Pope Army Airfield, Hope Mills and Spring Lake. Readers are limited to one copy per person. © 2020 by F&B Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of editorial or advertisements without permission is strictly prohibited. Various ads with art graphics designed with elements from: vecteezy.com and freepik.com. How often do the majority and minority leaders of any legislative chamber in America agree on a signifi- cant policy change? You can probably count those occasions on your fingers without putting down your coffee cup. But one such example is unfolding right now in our state capital. Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) and Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham) are two primary sponsors of House Bill 346, which would loosen some state controls on the operations of Blue Cross NC. Bell and Reives are also, respectively, the majority and minority leaders of the North Carolina House. Critics of the bill argue it represents a back-door attempt to transfer the value of the nonprofit health insurer into private hands. Back in the late 1990s, some of these critics helped block a major effort to convert Blue Cross into a for-profit entity. e result was a 1998 law that re- quires the proceeds of any such sale to private owners to flow into a charitable foundation. at was my position in 1998, too. While Blue Cross NC had by then become a fully taxed entity, much of its assets had been accrued during an earlier period when it benefitted from sizable tax breaks and other state as- sistance. If it were sold to private firms or shareholders, who would the buyers pay? Surely not themselves, the state, or the former executives or directors of the nonprofit. It seemed prudent at the time to require any such for-profit conversion to result in an independent foundation dedicated to the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians. It remains the prudent policy today. e bill Bell, Reives, and dozens of other state lawmakers are sponsoring this session wouldn't change it. If the leaders of Blue Cross NC decide to sell, the proceeds will go to a foundation. Where I differ from the critics is that I see House Bill 346 as making a sale less likely. Right now, Blue Cross is the domi- nant player in North Carolina's market for private health plans. Indeed, it's the only insurer selling policies in all 100 counties. But health care is undergoing rapid change. Both federal legislation and industry trends have created increas- ing returns to scale. Local hospitals and other providers are merging, becoming parts of national chains. Insurers are also scaling up, in part to compete for the business of employers who operate across the country. Among other benefits, these scaled- up companies can invest productively in new technologies, massive databas- es, artificial intelligence, and other lines of business that enhance their ability to control insurance premiums and promote wellness. Generally speaking, however, the in- surers don't make investments directly, which would quickly run up against state-imposed caps on the investment of their assets. Instead, they are organized as hold- ing companies that own both the tightly regulated insurance company as well as affiliated subsidiaries. Under current law, Blue Cross NC can't do that. Moreover, as a "hospital service corporation" under state law, it faces not only a 10% cap on how much of its assets can be invested in non- insurance ventures but also an auto- matic trigger to convert to a for-profit company if it ever sold a significant interest in such a venture. House Bill 346 would permit it to re- organize as a nonprofit holding com- pany that would continue to own the nonprofit Blue Cross insurer as well as other affiliated companies and invest- ments. e bill also stipulates that no current executives receive equity-based compensation from any subsidiaries created by the holding company and that any subsequent sale of Blue Cross would still put all the proceeds of that sale — from all lines of business — into a foundation. e way I see it, the critics are mis- taken about the bill. It would reduce the probability that some out-of-state entity will end up owning and controlling North Carolina's largest health insurer. at's one of the reasons both Re- publican and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have lined up behind it. ey see it the same way. Editor's note: John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, Mountain Folk and Forest Folk, combine epic fantasy with early Amer- ican history (FolkloreCycle.com). PUBLISHER'S PEN Blue Cross Bill makes good sense by JOHN HOOD Letters to the Editor Do YOU have something to say? We want YOU to be heard! We want EVERYONE to be able to voice their opinions on current community events. Let us be a place to start much needed conversations. ALL VOICES WELCOMED! EMAIL: editor@upandcomingweekly.com CALL: 910-484-6200 JOHN HOOD, Board Member, John Locke Foundation. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200

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