108D-22. PHP provider networks.

(a) Except as provided in G.S. 108D-23, each PHP shall develop and maintain a provider network that meets access to care requirements for its enrollees. A PHP may not exclude providers from their networks except for failure to meet objective quality standards or refusal to accept network rates. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, a PHP must include all providers in its geographical coverage area that are designated essential providers by the Department in accordance with subdivision (b) of this section, unless the Department approves an alternative arrangement for securing the types of services offered by the essential providers.

(b) The Department shall designate Medicaid and NC Health Choice providers as essential providers if, within a region defined by a reasonable access standard, the provider either (i) offers services that are not available from any other provider in the region or (ii) provides a substantial share of the total units of a particular service utilized by Medicaid and NC Health Choice beneficiaries within the region during the last three years and the combined capacity of other service providers in the region is insufficient to meet the total needs of the Medicaid and NC Health Choice enrollees. The Department shall not classify physicians and other practitioners as essential providers. At a minimum, providers in the following categories shall be designated essential providers:

(1) Federally qualified health centers.

(2) Rural health centers.

(3) Free clinics.

(4) Local health departments.

(5) State Veterans Homes. (2019-81, s. 1(a).)