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DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

[Update: This post originally stated that 41,000 children were on the state's waiting list for childcare. Advocates in the childcare advocacy community have since contacted N.C. Policy Watch to let us know that this number, which dated to 2013, has been reduced to the much-lower, but still too-high, figure of approximately 22,000. We regret the error but stand by the premise of the story.] 

A special press release from the office of state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos provided yet another powerful example today of the disconnect between the policies of the McCrory administration and the reality “on the ground” for struggling North Carolinians.

According to the release, the Secretary will help celebrate the “Week of the Young Child” by reading to children at a Raleigh childcare center.

To which, all a body can say in response is: Uh, pardon us if we don’t start popping champagne corks. No offense Madam Secretary — it’s a nice gesture — but is that really all you got? If it is, you might want to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains that the waiting list for North Carolina’s  inadequate, but better-than-nothing-if-you’re-poor childcare subsidy program that you oversee has now reached an amazing and depressing 22,000.

In other words, reading to them a handful at a time is your solution for what ails our kids, you had better get busy.

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Joe Hauck Source: LinkedIn

Joe Hauck
Source: LinkedIn

The Associated Press had this report over the weekend about the slim amount of work product taxpayers received in exchange for $310,000 paid to a contractor with personal connections to N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

Joe Hauck, who has since returned to his previous job working for a company owned by Wos’ husband, was one of several controversial expensive hires and personal services contracts Wos, a Greensboro physician and Republican fundraiser, used to build her executive team.

In the year Wos has led DHHS, several of her top hires have departed, including then-24-year-old McCrory campaign worker Ricky Diaz who earned $85,000 a year as  Wos’ communications director, and Carol Steckel, who worked as the state’s Medicaid director for eight months before leaving her $210,000-a-year job. Wos’ former chief-of-staff Thomas Adams received a $37,000 settlement payment after spending just a month on the job, despite state hiring practices that bar severance packages in such situations.

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

AP reporter Michael Biesecker first requested records related to Hauck in September and recently received a pair of memorandums from the agency no longer than three double-spaced pages as evidence of the 11 months Hauck spent working at the state agency.

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A state legislative committee is looking into the situation in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services this morning, where embattled Secretary Aldona Wos continues to hang on and adhere to her controversial plan to privatize Medicaid, the state’s health insurance system for poor people.

Throughout her first year in office, Wos and her boss, Gov. McCrory, have repeatedly claimed that Medicaid is “broken” and that spending in the program is “out of control.” This new chart highlighted at today’s hearing, however, makes clear that Wos and McCrory may have some backtracking to do with respect to these claims (Note that the red line is the national trend and the blue is North Carolina’s. “PMPM” means “per member, per month.”):Medicaid spending

 

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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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The fallout over revelations that two 24-year-old McCrory campaign staffers landed $85,000 and $87,500 gigs at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is continuing.

The Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker reported today that openings for the jobs now held by Matthew McKillip and Ricky Diaz were never posted despite McCrory’s statements that the two young staffers were selected over older job candidates.

From the AP story:

Gov. Pat McCrory says a pair of 24-year-old campaign staffers landed senior-level jobs in his administration because they were the most qualified applicants, beating out older candidates.

But the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, where Matthew McKillip and Ricky Diaz got big promotions and raises after only a few weeks of government service, has been unable to provide any evidence their positions were ever advertised or that other applicants were considered.

In response to a public records request from The Associated Press, the state agency indicated there were no job postings or written skill requirements for the high-paying positions awarded to the young Republicans. Read More