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Aldona Wos

NCHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Can’t keep up or remember all the headline-grabbing goofs over the last year at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services?

WRAL reporter Mark Binker compiled a chronological list here.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Aldona Wos has rarely gone a few weeks this year without contending with some major crisis or controversy.

Here’s a snippet of some of the problems, though it’s worth clicking on the WRAL link to refresh your memory of just what’s gone sour at the state agency over the last year.

From WRAL:

Sept. 2013: Chief of staff paid $37,000 “severance”

The Department of Health and Human Services paid Thomas L. Adams $37,227.25 as “severance” after he served just one month as chief of staff at the department. Adams’ severance payment stood out because he occupied an exempt position, meaning he could be hired and fired at will with little notice and no need for the state to give cause and no appeal rights. The settlement was in addition to $14,000 in salary he earned over a short tenure.

And

Oct. 2013: State closes off WIC benefits for women and children as questions rise about whether the move was necessary Questions remain on WIC closure

Dysfunction in Washington came to North Carolina as the partial federal government shutdown stemmed the flow of tax dollars to North Carolina. The Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, nutrition program was one of the hardest hit by the shutdown. North Carolina announced it would stop processing applications due to the shutdown. But the federal government raised questions about that response, saying that the state should have had a reserve to allow them to carry on work through the shutdown period. Question intensified because WIC programs in other states continued operating.

And, most recently:

Jan. 2014: Doctors sue over Medicaid billing problems

North Carolina’s Medicaid billing system has been so dysfunctional that it costs doctors time, money and patients, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of medical providers in early January 2014. The suit alleges the state Department of Health and Human Services and some of its computer services providers were negligent in developing and implementing a new Medicaid claims billing system, known as NCTracks. Doctors from Cumberland, Nash, New Hanover, Robeson and Wake counties are part of the suit and claim “NCTracks has been a disaster, inflicting millions of dollars in damages upon North Carolina’s Medicaid providers.”

I, for one, am glad it’s Friday and I’m betting Aldona Wos feels the same way.

Wos, the state’s Health and Human Services, had a blockbuster week with more reporting over the weekend about federal threats to halt food stamps administrative funding, a day-long hearing Tuesday spent answering tough questions at the legislature, and a group of doctors filing what they hope to be a class-action lawsuit yesterday over delayed Medicaid payments to providers around the state.

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David RibarProfessor David Ribar of the UNCG Department of Economics is a frequent font of common sense on his blog Applied Rationality. This morning’s post: “SNAP in NC wasn’t broken before” is one such example:

“The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under Governor Pat McCrory and Secretary Aldona Wos has fouled up one task after another. As I’ve been discussing in the last few posts, the department’s problems with its NC FAST have delayed food assistance for tens of thousands of disadvantaged households, creating a different kind of NC FAST.

A constant refrain from Gov. McCrory and Sec. Wos throughout these debacles has been that they inherited a ‘broken agency.’ Records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, reveal a different story and show that the previous administration managed its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) caseload competently. Read More

nctracksSeven doctors’ offices filed a class-action lawsuit against the state’s health agency today, seeking relief for the bungled N.C. Tracks Medicaid billing system that has delayed payments to doctor’s offices and hospitals around the state.

The 48-page lawsuit (click here or scroll down to read) filed this morning in Wake County Superior Court is looking for damages from Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), the company contracted to build the billing system;  the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and two companies hired to test the system before its launch.

“The Defendants’ wrongful conduct caused massive delays in payment of reimbursements that were due and owing but simple were not paid due to errors in NCTracks,” the lawsuit states. “By one estimate, the State failed to pay nearly $700 million in the first 90 days of NC Tracks’ operation alone.”

In some instances, patients cancelled payments and doctors’ practices went months without payments, leaving medical practitioners in financial straits, the suit alleges.

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Ricky DiazRaleigh’s News & Observer features an on-the-money essay this morning by Fayetteville Observer editorial page editor Tim White on the departure of state DHHS spokesperson Ricky Diaz (pictured at left in a photo from a DHHS newsletter). The central message: Let’s hope Pat McCrory and his team learned something from Diaz’ short but tumultuous stay. Here’s White:

“McCrory has repeatedly insisted Diaz was worth every penny, that he’s one of the smartest, most capable people the governor has ever come across and that he was completely qualified for the job.

The kindest spin is that the governor is remarkably naive. A young man at 24, no matter how brilliant, still doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Read More