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A couple of simple truths about Medicaid

Medicaid 3 [1]As state lawmakers and Gov. McCrory argue about ways to cut public outlays for Medicaid — the public health insurance system for people of low income — the lead editorials in North Carolina’s two largest newspapers offer some straightforward and compelling truths this morning that ought to guide their discussions:

1) Service cuts harm real people in need and 2)  Things ain’t gonna’ improve as long as Dr. Aldona Wos runs the show.

As Raleigh’s News & Observer reminds us, [2] when legislators cut services to save money (even though, as the editorial notes, per person costs are down and quality of service is up) they make life hell for people like Mason Leonard and his mom Colleen:

“Mason Leonard, 14, of Cary is severely disabled. He was brain-damaged at birth and cannot care for himself. He can’t be left alone, can’t feed himself or look after any of his needs.

But thanks to a few Medicaid services, he receives therapy, gets out a little, gets trained in things like making his bed, which, when he accomplishes it, is considered a big step….

A Medicaid policy change last year, for example, eliminated weekend hours for teaching Mason how to function with basic skills. His mother understandably fears what new hardships further “reform” will produce.

Here is what the public needs to understand about the budget cutting and reform conducted under the banner of ‘efficiency.’ For each cut, for each decision to eliminate some benefit, a disabled person such as Mason Leonard or a poor person with no alternative for care except what Medicaid provides and their caregivers and family members suffer discomfort or pain.”

And then there’s this bit of plain truth from the Charlotte Observer [3]: state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos simply has to go. As the Observer notes:

“The sad thing in reading the (Raleigh) News & Observer’s important two-part series on the state’s Medicaid woes and the dysfunctional management of the Department of Health and Human Services is that the revelations no longer have the power to amaze. Problems beset DHHS and Medicaid long before Pat McCrory was elected governor nearly two years ago. But McCrory and the current legislature haven’t made things any better, and in one key way they seem to have made things worse.

McCrory’s hiring of Aldona Wos as secretary of health and human services was a huge blunder, one that he refuses to rectify by letting her go. Wos has made a series of poor decisions that have resulted in a place even consultants the department hired to address its Medicaid troubles said ‘lacks leadership and talent,’ ‘an environment which fosters poor results and execution.’ The atmosphere under Wos has sent many veteran staffers fleeing, often replaced with political hires or acquaintances who lacked pertinent experience….

McCrory is headed in the right direction with his proposed Medicaid changes. He needs to get on the right path in fixing the department, DHHS, that oversees it. He needs to fire Wos and recruit and keep experienced and talented staff. He also needs to end the practice of no-bid contracts that Wos has made a staple of DHHS and has led to wasted dollars on incompetent hires.”