10/18/13 — Back to the table: Commission puts off vote on hospital and insurance

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Back to the table: Commission puts off vote on hospital and insurance

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 18, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners are counting on strength in numbers to help convince Blue Cross Blue Shield to return to the bargaining table with Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Commissioners had been poised to approve a resolution they hope will also be adopted by the county's municipalities supporting the hospital's efforts to secure a "fair and balanced" contract with the insurance giant.

Instead, they tabled the resolution until next month after Chairman Steve Keen pushed to give the municipalities time to consider approval.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery, a member of the hospital board, had asked that the resolution be added to commissioners' Tuesday agenda.

Blue Cross Blue Shield last month broke off contract negotiations with the hospital. The insurance company terminated the contract effective Dec. 5.

The termination will have a "detrimental effect" on the county's only hospital, as well as on citizens, local businesses, government and state employees, the resolution reads.

It adds that a strong hospital is "essential" to providing comprehensive health care services to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base personnel and their families and military retirees.

"This resolution basically outlines how important Wayne Memorial is to our community and that we are urging Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the hospital, to get back to the table and work their differences out," Daughtery said.

The county is not trying to get into the specifics of the negotiations, but is is simply asking that negotiations resume, he said.

Daughtery made a motion to approve the resolution. Keen amended the motion to create a joint resolution with all of the county's municipalities and the Board of Education.

The amendment also included asking for the votes on or before Nov. 4 and for commissioners to approve the resolution on Nov. 5.

Keen said the idea was for the county to move forward as a whole and not commissioners by themselves.

Commissioner John Bell said he thought a joint resolution would have more power and would be a show of strength.

Commissioner Bill Pate agreed, but added that the vote needed to be taken no later than Nov. 5.

In response to questioning by Commissioner Wayne Aycock, County Manager Lee Smith said he did not know how many people in the county would be affected by the contract termination.

Keen reminded commissioners of their meetings with town boards in which they told the boards they would be included in issues such as the hospital contract.

Daughtery said he had "no issue" with that, but was concerned those boards might want to modify the resolution in some way.

"I just hope that we don't get into a problem in regards to putting words into the mouths of other boards," he said. "I don't want them to take any offense to us actually submitting a resolution drawn up by this board and stating this is our resolution and we are asking you to support this resolution."

He agreed that acting jointly is a better way to proceed.

Still, if that support is not in hand on Nov. 5, Daughtery said he hoped commissioners would act.

Commissioner Ray Mayo said the same resolution would be sent to the other boards.

"All they would have to do is fill in their information and sign it," he said.

That is what the county did to gain support to keep the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace state historic site open, he said.

Mayo suggested that the Board of Education and municipalities be notified immediately to get the resolution in their hands and back to commissioners as soon as possible.

If they have problems with the wording, or don't want to support it then they don't have to act, he said.

Keen withdrew his amendment and replaced it with a motion to table the resolution to allow time for the other boards to act.

It was unanimously approved.