Aldona Wos, a wealthy Greensboro physician stepped down from her position as North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Secretary, the second member of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration to leave in the last week.
McCrory, in tears at times, called her the best secretary the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has ever had, and pointed out the state’s massive Medicaid program reversed trends of significant cost overruns and ended the year with a $130.7 million surplus.
Rick Brajer, who had previously headed medical technology companies, will replace Wos.
Wos is the second member of McCrory’s administration to leave this week. N.C. Department of Transportation’s Tony Tata abruptly left last week, citing the need to spend time with his family and consider what next the steps are in his career.
But while Wos, a wealthy Greensboro physician who was a significant fundraiser during McCrory’s 2012 campaign, was heaped with praise Wednesday, her 32-month tenure at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was marked with controversy.
The legislature, which is controlled by McCrory’s own Republican Party, has frequently expressed displeasure with DHHS under Wos’ leadership.
She took a $1 a year salary to head the state’s health and human services agency, the largest department in Gov. Pat. McCrory’s administration. A native of Poland, she and her husband, Louis DeJoy, had been generous Republican fundraisers, and she served as a past ambassador to Estonia under President George W. Bush.
The job at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was the first time she’d managed a large entity, and, with more than 16,000 employee, DHHS is one of the state’s largest.
She was at the agency’s helm during the rocky launches of two major benefits systems, which left tens of thousands of North Carolinians without access to emergency food assistance and delayed payments for months to Medicaid providers around the state.
In 2013, North Carolinians learned North Carolina was the only state in the nation in the course of the federal government shutdown to suspend issuing WIC vouchers, a federally-funded program that provides breastfeeding help and vouchers for formula and nutritious food for at-risk children.
She also opted to give $85,000 salaries given to two 24-year-old former McCrory campaign workers (one of whom is now working for the N.C. GOP) and a sharp increase in personal services contracts, including $228,000 paid over eight months to an employee of her husband’s company.
A Washington consulting firm, Alvarez and Marshal, has gotten nearly $8 million through a contract to run the state’s Medicaid division, duties that were previously performed by state employees.
The major goal of her administration, to bring changes to the state’s Medicaid system, remains unfinished, as the legislature decides whether to move Medicaid administration to its own department and open the massive $14 billion state Medicaid system to the private market.