(With update) N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler resigned from his position as head of the state’s health department this afternoon, according to several sources high up in state government.
Cansler, who has appointed to his position in 2009 by NC Gov. Bev Perdue, has had plenty of controversy to deal with lately.
(Updated version following) The governor’s office says Cansler will return to the private sector but will also chair the new Commission on an Affordable Healthcare System for North Carolina.
The new acting head for NCDHHS will be Al Delia, currently the governor’s senior policy adviser. Delia will take over in February.
The governor’s press office could not immediately confirm Cansler’s resignation late Friday afternoon, but indicated an announcement about Cansler will be forthcoming.
The agency has also struggled with a $139 million Medicaid shortfall created by unrealistic savings demanded by the state legislature. His department was the subject of a critical audit released earlier this week about the state’s $265 million contract with Computer Sciences Corporation, the company contracted to overhaul the database for how Medicaid processing claims.
From Lynn Bonner’s article Wednesday about the audit in the News & Observer:
The audit found that the contract cost will increase from $265.2 million to $494.9 million, that work was 22 months behind schedule, state oversight was lax, and calculations leading to a $10 million damage payment by CSC were not properly documented.
Legislators reacted fiercely last month to a report prepared by their own staff raising similar points and criticized the manager overseeing the contract. U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Watauga County Republican, denounced the increased costs from the floor of the U.S. House, using them as an example of government waste.
Lanier Cansler, the secretary of health and human services, defended the project’s progress at the legislative committee meeting, saying that other states have similar problems because the claims systems are so complex.
His written response was more fiery.
The audit team did not have enough experience with contracts and computer technology, Cansler said. “We disagree with much of the report,” he wrote. “This audit has been an unproductive 11-month exercise.”
Here’s the full text of Perdue’s press release about Cansler’s resignation:
RALEIGH – Gov. Bev Perdue today named Al Delia as Acting Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Delia, who currently serves as the Governor’s senior adviser for policy, will assume the new post in early February.
Secretary Lanier M. Cansler, who has served in that post since the beginning of the Perdue administration, will return to the private sector. He has agreed to chair the Governor’s new Commission on an Affordable Healthcare System for North Carolina.
“Governor Perdue is a tremendous leader,” Cansler said. “I am honored to have served on her team as she steered the state through incredibly difficult times and stabilized North Carolina’s fiscal house. We cut spending, eliminated waste and consolidated agencies – all to make state government more efficient without neglecting our core mission of serving the people.”
“I could always depend on Lanier to help find the best answer for the people of North Carolina,” Gov. Perdue said. “I will miss his calm, wise advice; the state is better for his service. He remains a friend and I will continue to rely on his counsel.”
Delia, a former associate vice chancellor at East Carolina University, has served as Gov. Perdue’s chief policy adviser since 2009.
“Al has an incredible depth of understanding of health care policy and the challenges we face,” Gov. Perdue said. “I have every confidence in his ability to lead the department at this critical time.”
The mandate of the commission on affordable health care is, over several months, to develop a vision to help make North Carolina’s healthcare system more affordable and sustainable, including proposed changes in the law, regulations and the financial reimbursement process, as well as proposals for encouraging individual North Carolinians to live healthier lifestyles.
Cansler was appointed by Perdue to head up DHHS in January 2009. Under his leadership, he renewed the commitment of the department to enhance public confidence in the agency’s ability to successfully meet the challenges and address the needs of North Carolina’s citizens. He shared the Governor’s focus of strengthening the agency with more open management, transparency and with a goal of achieving greater effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of vital services to all North Carolinians.
Cansler, a native of Catawba County, who moved to Asheville, is a certified public accountant who was elected to four terms in the state legislature representing the 51st House District, before serving as Deputy Secretary of DHHS from 2001 to 2005.
(Note: The post has been updated from its initial version to reflect a correction. The initial post reported that the Medicaid shortfall was $139, not the actual shortfall of $139 million. Apologies for the mistake.)