The 2016 North Carolina State Treasurers race was won by Republican Dale Folwell. As Treasurer, Folwell will oversee a healthcare and pension plan worth over $100 billion dollars.
The state’s pension plan is currently valued at around $90 billion dollars and covers some 900,000 current and former public employees. Currently, the plan is the 12th largest pension fund in the United States and the 26nd largest such fund in the world.
According to the latest end of year report (2014-15), the State Health Plan serves over 685,000 state employees and state retirees. The largest portion of those served are active employees totaling just under 475,000.
The State Health Plan has an estimated $32 billion in debt, yet the State Health Plan board voted in early December to expand coverage for hormone treatments and sex-reassignment surgeries to commence on January 1. And independent consulting firm informed the Treasurer’s office that estimated cost for these changes could hit the state upwards of $850,000 dollars per year.’
The State Health Plan’s hands may be tied. Denying such coverage may result in penalties and lawsuits due to a new rule in the Affordable Healthcare Act.
We caught up with Folwell after election night and asked him what his top goals were heading into his term as Treasurer.
Dale Folwell laid out three main points which included reducing fees paid to Wall Street, detecting and curbing fraud and waste and bringing more transparency to the Treasurer’s office.
“First, we’re going to reduce the fees that we pay to Wall Street by at least $100 million dollars.” said Folwell.
The most recent report on the state pension was delivered in October and covers the third quarter. In a press release, current Treasurer Janet Cowell announced that the pension fund had increased 8.4 Percent Over 12 Months and 3.5 Percent for the quarter:
The fund, comprised of the retirement plans the Department of State Treasurer manages, reported a gain of 3.5 percent for the quarter. Over the last 12 months, the fund gained 8.4 percent. These figures and all of the following performance figures are reported net of all fees and expenses. Pension fund assets were valued at $89.8 billion, up from $87.6 billion at the end of the second quarter.
In early December, The Public Pensions Coordinating Council awarded North Carolina the 2016 Standards Award for excellent administration of the six different pensions funds under managed by the office.
Yet that 2016 Standards award comes amidst $40 billion in debts and “I.O.U.’s” tied to the pension program. Folwell says he wants to eliminate those debts and change the conversation to results.
“The main goal here is that four years from now, we won’t be spending as much time talking about $40 billion dollars worth of I.O.U.’s – with the healthcare, with the pension, we’ll be talking about results.” stated Folwell.
Folwell stressed that the State Health Plan needs some serious work and would be focusing on reducing fraud and waste while trying to attract young, healthy employees back to the plan.
“The Treasurer also has responsibility for the State Health Plan,” Folwell said, “we are going to reduce waste and fraud inside of our State Health Plan.”
“Secondly, We are driving away all of our young, healthy state employees families because the premium is unaffordable,” stated Folwell.
Folwell went on to say that initially they will be looking at freezing family premium rates with the long-term goal of reducing them.
“The largest purchaser of healthcare in North Carolina, which is the state, should be able to do it better and more efficiently on behalf of teachers and troopers and other public servants,” Folwell said.
Folwell’s third goal is for increasing transparency, saying that he wants to, “bring complete transparency to the office – more Sunshine.”
This transparency plan includes monthly calls with media Folwell dubbed, ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions. Folwell said he would encourage reporters to attend and ask questions about fraud that might have been uncovered or the status of the various plans overseen by the Treasurer’s office.
Folwell said that, “It’s very important to communicate that this purse I am talking about is the 25th largest public pool of money in the world. It’s a big deal. If we find 1% of waste, fraud or abuse in this $100 billion dollar operation, that’s a billion dollars.”
“What can be done with a billion?” Folwell continued, “If it’s 2%, that’s $2 billion. So, my point is that I am optimistic about us taking advantage of our largeness for the benefit of the participants in these pension and healthcare plans and the taxpayers of North Carolina.”
For more information about the North Carolina State Treasurer’s office, visit their website.