Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is moving to change the government insurance program for 1.7 million of the state’s elderly, disabled and poor residents to a system where providers are paid set rates for each person they treat. As it is now, the government pays fees for each medical treatment or service.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican and advisory committee member, said he was concerned about managed care insurance companies coming in to take over big parts of the Medicaid program. He asked whether insurance companies would be needed.
Adam Searing, director of the N.C. Health Access Coalition, has been critical of McCrory’s rap on Medicaid. Searing, whose organization advocates for low-income and working class people, was also critical of Atlas for not presenting what Searing said would have been a complete picture of managed care.
They don't want a complete picture. All they needed to see was "capped payments" and the love affair was off to a great start.
North Carolina, however, is the only state Lower-Basch has found that’s stopped processing TANF applications. That’s problematic, she said, because the longer the shutdown continues, the longer those applicants will see critical benefits delayed.
All of which is unnecessary. Last month, the U.S. Health and Human Services Family Assistance Office wrote a pre-shutdown letter to states, promising to reimburse money states had to spend to cover federal TANF benefits. That’s probably why so few states have yet to talk about shutting down their TANF programs.
Whether it's incompetence or actual malice towards those who would seek these benefits would be difficult if not impossible to discern, but either way DHHS is failing in its basic mission: to provide health services.
And, according to reports, 49 states indeed immediately found some way to keep it going. Only North Carolina said it couldn't.
Not only was that an erroneous judgment, but it was unfortunately all too typical of the initial reaction we've seen in Raleigh this year. Whether it's Medicaid, unemployment benefits or WIC, the first reaction is always "we can't" -- at least when it comes to programs that serve the poor.
For tax cuts that mostly benefit the well-off, the attitude is "we can and we will."
The spectacle of Aldona Wos all-of-a-sudden "finding" money for WIC, combined with DAG McCrory's almost tearful claim that taking care of children is his top priority, made me seriously contemplate hurling a projectile at my relatively new flatscreen TV. And I'm not in the habit of abusing my appliances. But the knowledge that people who are suffering will only get relief when Republicans are forced into a corner and embarrassed is, in a word, infuriating. And this effort to spin the debacle:
In a letter to senior lawmakers, Wood raises three issues with the testimony of DHHS officials, including Secretary Aldona Wos, offered to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Tuesday. In it, Wood suggests that Wos and her chief information officer, Joe Cooper, ignored findings of a May audit that found the state wasn't ready to go live with the NCTracks system.
A second point raised by the auditor pointed out that the system had not met critical benchmarks before the go-live date. This contradicts testimony from Cooper, who told lawmakers that the system had passed its tests.
It's plain that much of the testimony given to lawmakers the other day was at best misleading, if not outright lies. The longer Republicans in the General Assembly allow this fiasco to continue, the more likely they'll pay for it next November.
North Carolina is the first, and only, state in the nation to stop issuing vouchers for formula and nutritional food for at-risk newborns, young children and expectant mothers as part of the federal government shutdown. The aberration was noted this week in publications like Governing, a national public policy magazine, which pointed out $125 million from a USDA emergency contingency plan kept the program up and running in the 49 other states.
In neighboring South Carolina, the WIC program is continuing to run through the end of the month with state officials using other funding to stop the gap in funding until federal money flows through to the program again.
I mentioned something along these lines a week ago on Facebook:
"They have taken a very straight-forward process and complicated it to the 'Nth' degree," said Kim Sparks, the administrator at Nash OB-GYN Associates in Rocky Mount, who attended training sessions before the system rollout. She said they didn't help - her practice had more than $300,000 in Medicaid claims unpaid by the state at one point. Less than half those complaints have been resolved. The practice needed a bank loan to cover payroll. Nothing like NCTracks "has crippled this practice so severely financially," Sparks said.
Some medical providers are being forced to choose between risking the future of their clinics and limiting the number of Medicaid patients they serve, said North Carolina Medical Society CEO Bob Seligson. Nearly 300 physician practices have contacted the society since July 1 with NCTracks complaints.
It doesn't get any more important than providing medical treatment for the sick and injured, and a continued failure in this area will cost lives, if it hasn't already done so. The word "emergency" fits this issue, in more ways than one.
"DHHS will maintain the WIC program as long as existing federal funds will allow. I urge clients to keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming their vouchers for the time being. DHHS continues to work to minimize any negative effects of the federal government shutdown on our employees, programs and vital services."
DHHS notes that WIC-eligible clients may also be eligible to enroll in North Carolina's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps).
Oh, that's real helpful. By the time their SNAP benefits start flowing, the Federal government will have solved this crisis and be on the cusp of the next crisis. If that's Aldona's idea of "helping" hungry women, infants and children, I'd hate to see her try to punish them.
Is there a fire under that smoke? It’s too soon to say. Drawing rash conclusions — that the department is dysfunctional and Wos should go — isn’t helpful. DHHS is the most complex agency in state government. It administers a massive program that operates under federal rules and deals with a medical economy where costs always go up and opportunities for waste and fraud seem boundless. Past audits showed that North Carolina’s Medicaid program incurred higher administrative costs than most other states’.
Bolding mine. If I didn't know better, I'd be forced to conclude from this paragraph that the N&R editorial staff is blaming the structure of DHHS for Aldona Wos' wasteful and fraud-like behavior. It's not her fault, it's the environment she's in. I know for a fact this view is not held by the majority of N&R's editorial staff, but whoever penned this is hiding under your banner. Boss or not, that's wrong.
If Pat McCrory doesn’t want to start being known statewide as Gov. McCrony, he had better start paying closer attention to some of the disgraceful, politically tainted hirings being made by at least one of his appointees.
Especially deserving to be called on the carpet — if not fired outright — is Aldona Wos, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services. She is clearly betraying the public trust by using her position as a kind of the spoils center from which to dole out lucrative jobs to unqualified buddies.
I'm pretty sure that's Posmo's little word-baby that's all growed up and finding success in the...economically unsuccessful world of newspapers. Well, that turned out to be more depressing than it should have been. But in the spirit of hurricane parties worldwide, we'll still celebrate! Yay! :)
Submitted by scharrison on Wed, 09/18/2013 - 8:31am
Aldona Wos' gravy train picks up a Tea Party nutjob passenger:
Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, started with the department as a senior planner Aug. 12 and will make $95,000 a year, salary records show. She taught at ECU for about three years in the 1990s, was briefly involved in the early stages of the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party and donated $1,250 to McCrory's campaign in 2012.
Peal was also listed in 2010 under her married name, Grubb, as a member of the board of directors for the anti-abortion Carolina Pregnancy Center, which provides "abortion alternatives, post abortion support and abstinence education with the hope of transforming lives through Jesus Christ," according to its Facebook page.
I wonder what Jesus Christ would say about DHHS failing to provide food stamps for thousands of hungry children while paying one of his followers $95,000 per year. Pretty sure he would not be happy about that.
BlueNC is a labor of love. Views expressed by any particular community member are simply that: the views of that particular member. If you have questions or concerns about the content you see here, please contact us.