Table of Contents March 2014

MARCH 2014 

Cover story

Snuffed out

The end of the old North Carolina economy began 50 years ago with the surgeon general's report on smoking.

By Ken Otterbourg

They released the report on a Saturday, when the financial markets would be closed. This was by design. At 9:30 a.m., the reporters — about 200 in all — filed into the auditorium at the State Department. They were given the 387-page document. The enormous room and a few hallways had been sealed off from the rest of the building. Guards were posted at the exits, and once inside, no one was allowed to leave. The press conference was to start at 11, giving the journalists and others in attendance all of 90 minutes to read the Report. Just for that day — because of that day — smoking was banned in the auditorium, so many of those on hand lounged in the adjacent corridors, where it was OK to have a cigarette.




Behind the hospital bill

Will new legislation that reveals prices - which are all over the place - send patients surgery shopping?

By Edward Martin

With winter over, affluent second-home owners were returning to the wynds, as they call the narrow streets on Bald Head Island, and to Maritime Market. After slicing deli meats and helping customers all day, Robert Caser changed roles. “Everybody pitches in to help clean up,” he says. The next day, he felt a stabbing pain in his left side. Maybe he had stretched awkwardly while sweeping and mopping the produce, baked goods and seafood aisles. Tests at an urgent-care center indicated a pulled muscle, and he was sent home with a prescription for ibuprofen and a bill for $120. The pain persisted. Two days later, he’d had enough. “I came home from work and told my wife, ‘Honey, I’m going to the hospital. Maybe they missed something.’”

Caser, 55, drove the 8 miles from his home in Boiling Spring Lakes to Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport, where emergency-room doctors told him they could give him a shot for the pain but, if they did, he couldn’t drive. “I’d have to get a cab home and then get a cab back to pick up my car the next day, so I asked how much it would be if I stayed.” He repeated the question during each test they gave him. “I never got a straight answer.” He left the next morning with the diagnosis of a pulled muscle confirmed.

He learned how much a few days later. “I came home from work and my wife was freaking out. She said, ‘What are we going to do?’” The bill was for $13,939.13. Liability concerns, Dosher administrators say, obligated the hospital to give Caser multiple tests to rule out more serious causes of the pain. Besides, doctors and nurses typically don’t know the costs. Had he known, Caser says, he would have gone home and stayed there until he recovered.

The annual checkup

We examine data to determine the state's best hospitals plus offer second opinions from other popular rankings.


Photo Feature

Better than it looks

Now that they're back from the brink of extinction, bison have become the picture of healthy eating.

Photography by Mike Belleme



Up Front

What an ash hole.


A chef cooks up an eating empire in Raleigh.

Custer mounts a comeback.

The lost becomes found.

Free & Clear

Crunching the numbers.

Capital Goods

A tangled web to unweave.


Has marijuana replaced tobacco as our top crop?


Eastern   Triangle   Triad   Charlotte   Western

Special Advertising Sections and Publications

Matching values: Best Employers in North Carolina

Special Advertising Section: Focus on Pitt County

Buy this issue