by Jordan Roberts
Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
Nick Ochsner from WBTV reported yesterday that the UNC Health, a state-owned hospital system, used money from its account to pay almost $60,000 to the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) to fund a 501(c)(4) organization called Partners for Innovations in Healthcare:
CHAPEL HILL, NC (WBTV) – The UNC Hospitals system wrote a check from a state account in January of this year that, in part, was intended to fund a dark money political organization, records obtained by WBTV show.
UNC Hospitals paid $58,633 in early January 2019 as part of a special assessment levied by the North Carolina Healthcare Association that was specifically earmarked to contribute to a 501(c)(4) group affiliated with NCHA called Partners for Innovation in Healthcare.
“Most notably, included in your dues statement is a special assessment to be used to fund ‘Partners for Innovation in Healthcare.’ This 501(c)(4) organization was founded to be a common-sense pragmatic voice for our state’s healthcare delivery system,” NCHA President Stephen Lawler wrote in a December 2018 letter about the next year’s dues to UNC Hospitals President Gary Park.
“We are committed to showing you a healthy return and hope you find that a small increase in dues for 2019 is appropriate and a solid investment,” the paragraph about the special assessment in Lawler’s letter concluded.
Of course, this is the “dark money” group that has been the fighting force trying to stop Treasuer Dale Folwell from implementing his Clear Pricing Project. The NCHA tried to cover its tracks and claim this payment, signed off and approved by someone with that power, was a mistake:
The entire amount was paid by a check cut from the UNC Hospitals account.
But in a statement issued by UNC Health Care spokesman Alan Wolf on Monday, the hospital paid the special assessment, designated for the NCHA-affiliated dark money group, by mistake.
“In paying its NCHA dues, UNC Hospitals inadvertently paid an assessment that was included on the invoice. This was an administrative oversight and has been rectified,” Wolf said in an email. “NCHA confirms it did not use UNC Hospitals funds for its 501(c)(4) organization and has since refunded that money.”
While the NCHA represents hospitals that provide critical services to our state’s populations, they are also fierce advocates for policies that protect hospitals interests over the interests of patients. This report, which sheds lights on where the state-owned hospital is sending tax-payer dollars, should concern all citizens of the state.