Gov. Bev Perdue opened her lunch speech at the Emerging Issues Forum today with a joke about the menu.
Perdue said she was having lunch with a group of men when she noticed that not one bite of any dessert had been eaten. "I said, 'What is going on?'” By way of answering, NC Biotech Center CEO Norris Tolson handed her a menu card that said the chocolate flourless cake had more than 500 calories.
“I know now how to pare down the cost of dinner at the mansion,” Perdue laughed. “Just tell ‘em how many calories are in it.”
But the subject area of the governor’s speech was no laughing matter: the growing cost of health care and the graying of the state’s population. Thirteen percent of North Carolina’s population is 65 or older today, she said. By 2020, it will be 18 percent, and it’s expected to keep rising for the next 30 years.
“Thirty-seven of 100 counties today have more people who are over 60 than under 17,” Perdue said By 2030, it’s expected to be 71 out of the state’s 100 counties. “That is a huge demographic and social shift for North Carolina.”
Perdue spoke about the rising costs of chronic diseases as lifespans increase, saying that controlling those costs will require better personal choices by patients, and a more efficient, better-coordinated system for health care delivery.
“We all know we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing,” she told the audience of health care and public policy experts from around the country. “We can’t just do more. We can’t pay for more.”
The governor touted the state’s track record of innovation in biotech and medical research and said North Carolina had just received a $2 million federal grant for an IT system that would help check for adverse interactions between drugs prescribed for a patient by different doctors.
She also mentioned the state’s new software system, designed to flag suspicious claims that could signal Medicaid fraud. She says it’s already found more than $53 million in recoverable claims in more than 1,200 cases, including a provider in Sparta who billed for services to scores of dead patients.
Perdue wrapped up by thanking the forum attendees for their work on improving health care policy and practice. “On behalf of the 9.5 million people that call this state home, you’re going to make a difference in their lives,” she said, “and I thank you."