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News & Record editorial: McCrory needs a new playbook when it comes to DHHS

The Greensboro News & Record, the hometown newspaper for DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos, says it’s time for Governor Pat McCrory to stop blaming previous administrations and own up to the problems at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Using a sports analogy, appropriate for this playoff weekend, the paper’s editorial board writes:

The jury may still be out on Gov. Pat McCrory as the state’s chief executive.

After all, he’s barely completed the first quarter of his term. But there’s one thing we know for sure right now: Cam Newton he isn’t.McCroryWos

Nearly every time something unfortunate happens in the Department of Health and Human Services (and, these days, it happens often), the governor tends to rely on the same, predictable playbook:

The long passing game: As in passing the buck to previous administrations.

The delay: Not addressing problems directly and promptly.

The silent count: Providing few, if any, timely comments from the person in charge.

The vote of confidence: Insisting that all is well, even as bad outcomes continue to mount.

The latest busted play in DHHS: the mailing of nearly 49,000 children’s insurance cards to the wrong addresses, 2,129 of them in Guilford County. The gaffe violates federal privacy laws and puts at risk such sensitive information as names, dates of birth and Medicaid numbers. And it follows a series of other high-profile blunders at DHHS that have raised fair questions about the competence of the department’s leadership.

Even so, the governor strikes the pose of an NFL team owner defending his embattled coach, in this case DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos of Greensboro. The administration might be forgiven for some of these problems if it weren’t so evasive about them to boot. Contrary to the original account from a DHHS official (who has since announced that he is leaving to take a new job), it took three days for DHHS to apprise the public of the insurance card errors. Then it was back to the rest of the playbook:

The long pass: “There’s been 10 years of operational neglect,” the governor said this week in defense of DHHS’s current leadership, “not only in that department, but in others.” As if somebody mailed those errant cards 10 years ago.

The end-around: Beyond a written statement that attributed the mailings to “human error,” Wos has made no public comment on the insurance card mailings.

The vote of confidence: “I’m confident in Secretary Wos and her staff,” the governor said.

He should take a good, long look at the scoreboard. Among the litany of costly fumbles thus far in DHHS on Wos’ watch:

  • The hiring as head of the state’s prekindergarten program a woman who opposed the existence of prekindergarten programs. (She eventually quit.)
  • The botched launch of NC Tracks, the software program that processes Medicaid enrollments and payments.
  • The botched launch of NC FAST, the software program that issues food stamps to North Carolinians.
  • The hiring of consultants and full-time employees at lavish salaries.

The governor is absolutely correct on one point: DHHS is a messy tangle of challenges that won’t be fixed in a day. So, when the next hiccup occurs, he should own up to it quickly and forthrightly. He also should let Wos speak for herself on how it’s being addressed. And stop blaming previous administrations.

As a Charlottean, McCrory in particular should appreciate the fact that, when the job of Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera was in serious jeopardy earlier this season, he didn’t try to pin his troubles on his predecessor. Nor should the governor.

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