At a made-for-the-media event at a food bank in Charlotte that also featured State Budget Director Art Pope and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, the Guv made a big show of his concern for the poor by publicly releasing a whopping $750,000 to food banks. McCrory also made this remarkable statement: Read More…
UPDATE (10/10/2013 5 p.m.): U.S. Rep David Price’s office confirmed with the USDA that enough contingency funds were sent to DHHS to continue the program. Price plans on sending McCrory a letter asking why, given that, NC was the only state to cease issuing vouchers.
North Carolina is the first, and only, state in the nation to stop issuing vouchers for formula and nutritional food for at-risk newborns, young children and expectant mothers as part of the federal government shutdown.
The aberration was noted this week in publications like Governing, a national public policy magazine, which pointed out $125 million from a USDA emergency contingency plan kept the program up and running in the 49 other states.
Now, questions are being raised about why North Carolina stopped issuing vouchers on Tuesday, instead of furloughing employees or finding other sources of funding to keep vouchers for formula and food going to the young children and their mothers that depend on the program.
“The first thing you do is furlough employees rather than cutting out essential things like food to babies,” said Dr. William Pilkington, the head of Cabarrus Health Alliance, the Piedmont county’s public health agency. “I don’t understand morally or otherwise how the governor made the decision to withdraw food from babies.”
Calls for comment from McCrory’s office and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services were not immediately returned Thursday. This post will be updated with their responses when we hear back.
Reached late Thursday afternoon, the Rev. Douglas Greenaway of the National WIC Association said he didn’t know why North Carolina was having so many more issues than other states. He did say that USDA has reached out to the state trying to get the program back running.
“I know that USDA and North Carolina have been in conversations with each other,” Greenaway said. “USDA has made an offer of assistance with some of the available contingency funds that are left.”
Greenaway said he didn’t know whether or not North Carolina officials were resistant to the idea of accepting the funds or not, or if there was a pre-existing cash flow problem that led to an early shutdown.
“I would just hope that the conversation with USDA are fruitful and produce positive resolutions for mothers and infants,” he said.
Legislative leaders upset by the continued delay in payments to health care providers were told Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services is working around the clock to fix the Medicaid payment system.
DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos stressed that NCTracks, which was rolled out July 1st to streamline payments and help track spending, was in fact working.
But Republicans and Democrats alike questioned Wos’ team about why they put the complex computer system into service knowing there would be some problems.
Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County pointedly told the panel these missteps have hurt individuals and businesses:
“I run a small business with about 90 employees and if I was 90 days out on some of the cash flow from my customers, I couldn’t make it,” said Tucker. “We have had a number of people furlough their employees…I’ve had developers and real estate agents calling me and saying ‘Is this true? He’s not getting paid by the state. He can’t pay his rent.’ We have created a tremendous hardship. So how much longer is this going to have to go on?”
Sen. Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County was more direct:
“I heard today that all of the problems that were raised can be addressed easily. Well then do it!”
Joe Cooper, DHHS’ Chief Information Officer, told the oversight committee he expects it will be 3-6 months before all the NC TRACKS issues are resolved.
For some of the highlights from the day-long hearing, click below. To watch the full meeting, visit WRAL.com.
Reporter Sarah Ovaska will have more on today’s DHHS hearing Wednesday morning on NC Policy Watch.
The state Medicaid system, and its very troubled billing system called N.C. Tracks, is the topic of a much anticipated legislative oversight committee hearing happening this morning. You can watch here, through a live stream offered by Raleigh TV station WRAL.
Also check out this story today from. N.C. Health News that found McCrory administration appointees at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services removed explanations behind cost overruns in the state’s Medicaid system and other findings from a critical audit released in late January
That audit has been held up by Gov. Pat McCrory and DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos as a reason to open up the state’s $13 billion Medicaid program to private managed care companies. Staff in place during the end of former Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration had responded to draft versions of the audit with explanations that many of the cost overruns were due to impractical funding levels set by the state legislature, and that the overhead cost comparisons to
From the N.C. Health News article:
Soon after taking control in Raleigh in early 2013, people hired by Gov. Pat McCrory to run the Department of Health and Human Services made strategic edits to the departmental response to State Auditor Beth Wood’s audit of the North Carolina Medicaid program.
Documents obtained by North Carolina Health News through a public records request show that in January, incoming Sec. Aldona Wos and Medicaid head Carol Steckel eliminated detailed explanations of alleged high administrative costs, management problems and budget overruns in past years.
The resulting document accepts the criticism in Wood’s assessment wholesale and paints the health care program that covers 1.6 million North Carolinians as “broken.”
Health and Human Services Sec. Aldona Wos has a busy day planned for tomorrow, with back-to-back meetings with lawmakers who want to ask her about issues that have earned her, and her department, plenty of criticism and negative attention in recent months.
Below are the agendas for the two legislative oversight meetings. The first deals with the technology issues the department had with its troubled food stamp delivery system (NC FAST) and Medicaid payment billing system (NC TRACKS.) (Read these Associated Press stories on the food stamp and Medicaid billing problems for background.)
The afternoon meeting, beginning at 1 p.m., will dig into the $22,500 and $23,000 raises she gave to two 24-year-old members of her staff and high-dollar personal contracts that have awarded at DHHS. It’s likely Wos will be asked as well about a $37,000 severance settlement that she made with her former chief of staff Tom Adams, who only worked for a month in the political-appointment job.
The agendas are below, and audio of the afternoon hearing will be broadcast here. It’s likely that WRAL or other media will have live steaming of the meeting as well. We’ll update this post once we find out.