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Editorial: Time to ask the tough questions, take quick action

As members of a joint legislative committee devote today to questioning the head to the Department of Health and Human Services, the editorial board of the Charlotte Observer says it’s time for lawmakers to put politics aside and “demand better and quicker action” to fix recent problems within the agency.

Here’s an excerpt:

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

‘The urgent need for solutions is clear. The troubled implementation of the Medicaid processing system known as NCTracks, and an equally problematic roll out of NC FAST, the state’s new benefits distribution system that handles food stamps and other such services, is hurting businesses and residents. No time should be wasted Tuesday posturing and painting rosy, misleading pictures of what is going on, nor in pointing fingers in a fruitless game of pin the blame.

That, of course, will be the inclination. Already, many Democrats and Republicans have retreated to their corners on this matter. Gov. Pat McCrory, his staff and some other Republicans have downplayed the problems, noting that they inherited from Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue an agency that was plagued with problems. NCTracks and NC FAST were approved before his administration took over, and the issues originated with Perdue’s administration.

Some Democrats, of course, have seized on the three-month long mess as another knock against McCrory’s chosen leader of DHHS, Aldona Wos, and the governor’s determined push to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.

There are problems with both. Wos has been widely criticized for high-salaried crony hires, including a business associate of her husband and two 24-year-old former McCrory campaign workers with inadequate experience or qualifications for their jobs. An ethical wrinkle surfaced about her hires and about McCrory’s privatization effort when Wos’ Medicaid director recently resigned after eight months. Carol Steckel, who was hired to set up the privatization plan, left for a job with a Florida company that reportedly has an interest in running the N.C. program. This high-profile exit and others are leading some critics to question whether the McCrory administration is becoming a brief way station to funnel state business to selected private entities.

But politics should remain a backdrop to the need expressed by medical professionals and others to get to the bottom of the DHHS systems’ problems. Those problems are putting N.C. companies out of business because the state hasn’t paid their Medicaid claims and sending families to food banks because they haven’t gotten their benefit checks. This week, lawmakers must demand better and quicker action to fix these problems.’

You can read the full editorial here.

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