RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina state employees teach children, build roads, and more. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve been tested, vaccinated, and, in some cases, treated for COVID-19 like so many other people have.
They’ve also not been responsible for co-pays or deductibles. Those expenses are paid for by the state employee health plan that the state treasury oversees.
“When we are tested, when we are treated, or when the vaccine is administered to the state employees, we receive a bill and we pay those bills to the providers,” said North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell.
Since January 2020, that cost now sits at around $147 million. That includes $72 million for testing and $75 million for vaccinations, according to the N.C. State Health Plan. Reimbursement to the health plan, including federal dollars, must be approved by the General Assembly.
Folwell wants to avoid an increase in premiums for the 557,000 state workers and their dependents. That includes employees with state-run museums, the UNC System, Department of Corrections, the N.C. Lottery, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and other state agencies.
“As the keeper of the public purse, I have the responsibility to be loyal and stand up for those that teach, protect, and serve, and to get those monies reimbursed back into our health plan, as well as reimbursement that did not come forth from last year’s budget,” Folwell said.
“Ultimately, if we spend money for services that we do not get reimbursed for, many of those services were mandated by the federal government. Ultimately, the reserves go down and premiums would have to increase.”
Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget does address reimbursement to the state health plan. North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger’s office said it has spoken with Folwell about the issue and plans to address it in the budget process.
Folwell said there’s a trickle-down effect that he’s also worried about.
“You look at what is commonly said: ‘Who ate all of these things?’ Who ate the pay raise, or who ate the cost of living adjustment?’ You can point a finger back to rising health care costs,” Folwell said.
He also said this will not change access to any COVID-19-related health care in the future.
“We will do this for as long as it takes to where we will no longer need any more testing, treatment, or the administering of vaccines,” he said.