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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced this afternoon that an architect of a stalled Medicaid reform plan is leaving the state agency.

Margaret “Mardy” Peal, 43, was hired in August 2013 by Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos despite having been out of the work force for more than a decade, according to a News & Observer article published shortly after Peal’s hire.

The job was not posted, and was a newly created position to look at privatizing the state’s complex $13 billion Medicaid program, which is funded with a mix of state and federal dollars and provides health care for low-income children and their parents, seniors and disabled residents.

Peal, who has a master’s in health education and lectured at East Carolina University’s medical school on patient care in the late 1990s, had donated $1,250 to Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign, according to the N&O article. She also organized the Eastern North Carolina chapter of the Tea Party.

She made $95,000 a year in her DHHS position to help the agency develop a reform proposal for the state’s $13 billion Medicaid program. Peal’s hire last year came while Wos was facing criticism for giving big raises to several inexperienced McCrory campaign staffers.

The agency, at the urging of doctor and other medical provider groups, ultimately proposed parceling out Medicaid health care responsibilities to accountable care organizations (ACOs) around the state but the agency plan failed to get the backing of leading Senate Republicans who wanted to take Medicaid out from under DHHS and open it up to bids from managed care companies.

In a statement, state Medicaid Director Dr. Robin Cummings thanked Peal for her work and emphasized that the state agency planned on pursuing its approach to Medicaid reform.

“Working with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers and stakeholders across the state, DHHS will continue to pursue our Medicaid Reform plan,” Cummings said, according to a written statement.

In her Aug. 25 resignation letter (click here to read), Peal wrote that she was grateful for the experience working at DHHS but an unspecified opportunity in the private sector would allow her to spend more time with family.

“At this point in my family’s life, it is necessary that I spend a greater percentage of my time with them,” Peal wrote. “An opportunity presented itself that would allow me more time at home, and I have chose to pursue it.”

 

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Note: This post has been changed from its original form to reflect a correction. Scroll down for more information.

It’s hard to keep up with all the stories being written about the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the many questions being raised about the experience and pay for Secretary Aldona Wos’ recent hires.

Here’s the recap of stories that were flying around yesterday.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

The big story of the week has been Wos’ hire of a relatively inexperienced former Tea Party activist to serve as an adviser, despite little background in health care and policy other than serving as a lecturer at East Carolina University in the late 1990s.  (read more in this story from Raleigh TV station WRAL) Margaret “Mardy” Peal, who donated $1,250 to the McCrory campaign, has been out of the workforce for much of the last decade and was active in the Greenville area Tea Party gatherings and also is a past board member of the Carolina Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion ministry group. She is joining the state agency as it prepares to make new rules for abortion clinics in the state.

She’ll make $95,000 a year, well above the $45,000 to $74,000 range the job normally has.

(Note: McCrory said Wednesday he wasn’t involved in Peal’s hiring.)

The News & Observer also reported Peal wrote on an Internet site that she wanted to move out of the United States in 2008 because of concerns about the country’s direction and a “socialized [healthcare] system in which folks who move outside the system are punished.”

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