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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

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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.

Read More

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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

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Aldona Wos 2

Raleigh’s News & Observer doesn’t pull many punches with this morning’s scathing editorial about the state Department of Health and Human Services and its embattled leader, Secretary Aldona Wos. As the piece points out, Wos is simply over-matched:

“The secretary, who prior to her appointment had never done anything close to supervising a state department with over 17,000 employees, seems simply overwhelmed and underqualified for the job. Gov. Pat McCrory, well aware of Wos’s mega-fundraising for Republicans, continues to stand by his ill-advised appointment, digging in against calls for Wos to resign even as the problems at DHHS have multiplied… Read More

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DHHS-Aldona-Wos-2014-01-14

The head of the embattled N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will appear before legislators this morning to answer more questions about the agency’s most recent mishaps.

Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser, is expected to address the mailing of nearly 49,000 children’s Medicaid cards with private medical information to the wrong addresses as well as the recent disclosure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture may penalize the state for the bungled food stamps delivery program.

Gov. Pat McCrory has reiterated his support for Wos, telling media that Wos took over a department that had been in disarray under Democrats.

DHHS records show that the agency’s backlog has seen an uptick, with more than 30,000 households in December unable to access their food stamps vouchers.

Audio from today’s 10 a.m. hearing can be heard here, or Raleigh television station WRAL will live-stream today’s meeting here.

You can also follow me, Sarah Ovaska, on Twitter at @SarahOvaska.