This letter is in response to “Health care partnership needs scrutiny” (Sept. 3). We welcome wide input as we move toward formalizing an agreement to jointly operate a new health care system for North Carolina. We do, however, take issue with the assertion that the reason for our planned affiliation is to increase clout in negotiations with insurance companies. That simply is not our intent, nor has it been part of our discussions.
Nationwide, we and our peers face the daunting challenge of improving the affordability of health care. UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare System are pursuing initiatives aimed at this objective. For example, UNC Health Care developed UNC Health Alliance, an Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, in which we work with insurers to reduce the cost of care while simultaneously increasing access and improving outcomes. UNC also has partnered to form a new outpatient radiology joint venture, which will make imaging studies significantly more affordable. The savings will be realized by patients, employers and insurance companies.
At Carolinas HealthCare System, another example of how we are tackling affordability for our patients is with our efforts to address North Carolina’s behavioral health challenges. Currently 29 of 100 counties in North Carolina do not have a single psychiatrist. We have already become a national leader by integrating behavioral health care into our primary care practices. When combined with our growing tele-psychiatry options, we can provide virtual visits from primary care doctor’s offices, hospital and emergency room or even a living room. Not only is this a more cost-effective option, but it also increases rural access to care that is vitally needed.
By working together, drawing on our complementary skills and resources, we will develop and work toward solutions for health care’s most pressing challenges. UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare System look forward to working with many partners, including private health insurers, physicians and state health leaders to improve affordability and access. Our opportunities are limitless, and all are aimed at providing the best care and experience for patients at the lowest cost. We embrace our responsibility to the people we serve and look forward to sharing our progress as efforts continue to take shape.
William L. Roper, MD, MPH
CEO, UNC Health Care and Dean, UNC School of Medicine
Eugene A. Woods
President & CEO, Carolinas HealthCare System