The groundwork has been done.
Dr. Jim Jones arrives at the head of the governor's Health Planning Commission with great credentials. A founder of the Family Medicine program at East Carolina University, Jones has long championed primary care and improving the delivery of medical services in rural areas. Jones should bring a rich knowledge of North Carolina medical practices to the job, and a sensitivity to what happens outside the urban centers.
Jones' background, together with the abundant data already in hand, should make the commission's work easy.Jones has promised to open the health reform debate to all North Carolinians, a laudable attitude. However, the commission isn't starting from scratch. It has a gold mine of raw material. The information gathered by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, followed by William Friday's Health Access Forum and finally Sen. George Daniels' legislative study commission, should give Jones' commission as much insight into the state's health needs as it could possibly use.
Some of the earlier recommendations, particularly those of the legislative study commission, have already been enacted. Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker's plan for purchasing alliances of small companies should be on track later this year.
But the commission need not wait for Congress to act before it makes its own recommendations. Some issues can be addressed now: Most notable are insurance and malpractice reform. While both are part of several different plans now before Congress, they are state, not federal, concerns.