State News

Former head of state employee health plan fights back

Posted July 11, 2008 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2008 8:06 a.m. EDT

— The former executive administrator of the state employee health insurance plan said he was wrongfully fired from his job when a multimillion dollar surplus became a deficit.

George Stokes was fired July 1 after three years at the helm of the North Carolina State Health Plan. A spokeswoman for state Insurance Commissioner Jim Long said he fired Stokes after being told to do so by lawmakers who oversee the plan.

House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said last week Stokes was removed, because the General Assembly expected to receive a $50 million surplus from the plan this year. Instead, plan officials told him there would be a $65 million shortfall.

In a statement released Friday, Stokes said he was “dealt with in a high-handed, unprofessional, unfair and inappropriate fashion.”

Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland and Bladen, and Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson – the majority leaders of their respective chambers – wrote a letter to Long, requesting that he fire Stokes and hire Dr. Jack Waller.

Stokes said the reason officials gave for requesting his removal was “invalid, inaccurate and misleading.”

He said the stated reason he was fired was, “Certain fiscal information has been revealed to us which indicates that we have been operating under projections which cannot be met. This has placed us in a very difficult position and one that needs immediate attention.”

Stokes said he does not know the information being referred to in the statement, but said any projections made were “based upon solid information and careful analysis and shared with Senator (Tony) Rand and Representative Holliman in an agreed upon time table.”

Stokes said the State Health Plan was in “no jeopardy whatsoever.”

Stokes has hired Attorney James E. Ferguson, II, of Charlotte, to represent him and said he has reached out to Long to rectify things “without going through the costly and cumbersome process of litigation.”

Stokes has not said if he wants his job back.

The State Health Plan provides medical insurance for almost 650,000 state workers, public school teachers and retirees. It also administers N.C. Health Choice, which provides coverage for 122,000 uninsured children statewide.