This was the first quote from State Auditor Beth Wood in the front-page, prominently-headlined News and Observer back in January of this year after a Medicaid audit was presented at a joint news conference held by Wood and Governor Pat McCrory:
Administrative spending is 38 percent higher compared to the average of nine states with Medicaid programs of similar size, Wood said, or $180 million more than the average.
Here’s the first paragraph from today’s News and Observer story, “Legislative report conflicts with state audit on Medicaid costs”:
Administrative costs in the state Medicaid program are relatively low compared to other states, according to a report by the state legislature’s Fiscal Research Division. The report contradicts findings from a state audit released earlier this year that found North Carolina was spending a higher percentage of its money on administration that other states. Gov. Pat McCrory has used the audit to push the narrative that Medicaid is “broken” and needs reform.
So, we go from breathless headlines – and these were across multiple media and not just in the News and Observer – about how horrible the Medicaid program is with regard to administrative costs to the facts which are, unfortunately, completely different. North Carolina actually has some of the lowest administrative costs of all the states studied, not the highest. The Governor and General Assembly used this false assertion about supposedly high administrative costs in Medicaid as one of the major reasons for their refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act using 100% federal money to 500,000 North Carolinians.
If you follow this blog, you could have gotten an idea about this huge misrepresentation of the facts back in March when I posted video of NC’s now-resigned Medicaid director making exactly the same point at a legislative hearing. Unfortunately, these particular facts didn’t meet the party line from the Governor back then and no more was heard from the administration on this huge mistake.
This false portrayal of NC’s Medicaid program is infuriating to me and the many, many people I meet who would be eligible for health care around the state but are not because of McCrory and the General Assembly’s failure to expand Medicaid. To the audiences I speak to I will now add one more player in the effort to not expand Medicaid in NC: Our NC State Auditor. Even when confronted with clear evidence that she made a huge mistake in her report – a report that was used to deny half a million people in our state health care – she refuses to own up to the problem and move on. Everyone makes mistakes. This one has enormous and serious ramifications for the health of our citizens.