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Aldona WosAn editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal pulls few punches in characterizing the latest incident of political cronyism in Gov. Pat McCrory’s embattled Department of Health and Human Services and demanding a full accounting. That incident, of course (as reported and expanded upon here and here earlier this week by N.C. Policy Watch) was the department’s bestowal of $310,000 in pay to a “contractor” whose permanent job just happens to be working for the private company owned by the husband of DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos (and whose main work product during the period in question seems to have been to recommend cutting a number of safety net programs). This is from the editorial:

“The latest manifestation of Wos’ closed-government philosophy arose in news reports about Joe Hauck. Wos hired him as a private consultant and paid $310,000 for 11 months of work. But so far, it’s hard to tell what he did for that money. Read More

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NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

NC HHS Sec. Aldona Wos

Yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory’s DHHS Secretary, Aldona Wos, unveiled the administration’s long-awaited reform plan for Medicaid.  One of McCrory’s favorite talking points on Medicaid has been how “broken” the system is and how he’s going to “fix” it.  Setting aside the past year of missteps in which McCrory and Wos did more than any Governor and Secretary in history to discredit and cause problems for NC’s award-winning Medicaid program, what does the administration’s plan yesterday tell us about the future prospects of Medicaid and health care for the poor in NC?  Here’s my take:

1. Surrender:  The Governor completely surrendered by backing down from his former big plans to sell off substantial parts of the Medicaid program to private, out-of-state insurance companies.  The proposal yesterday to use “Accountable Care Organizations” or ACOs is simply, at its core, a new way to pay existing or new networks of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.  Paying health providers as a group for each illness a patient gets rather than piecemeal for every test and procedure is supposed to get providers focused on quality and efficiency, especially when payments go up if patients are healthier. ACOs represent gradual evolution in health care and not “major reform.”

2.  Missing the boat on Medicaid expansion: The Governor also made it clear that he has no intention of solving the coverage gap for the 500,000 poor North Carolina citizens who would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if he led the charge to expand Medicaid using the billions of dollars in federal money available to our state. Conservative governors and legislators around the country – whether in New Hampshire or Utah – are coming up with innovative solutions to cover their citizens with all the new federal money available.  By leaving an expansion proposal out of his plans to change Medicaid, our Governor is renouncing any claim to national moderate leadership on this issue, leaving billions of federal tax dollars collected from North Carolinians to go to states that do expand and hurting hundreds of thousands of his own constituents.

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DHHSAs Chris Fitzsimon points out in this morning’s “Monday Numbers” edition of the Fitzsimon File, the flubs just keep on coming at Aldona Wos’ Department of Health and Human Services:

4—number of days since the federal government sent a letter to state DHHS officials saying North Carolina would lose federal funding for operations of the state food stamp program if problems and case backlogs were not addressed in two weeks (“Federal money for food stamp management could be suspended in March, News & Observer January 24, 2014)

30—number of days that food stamp applications must be processed under federal law (Ibid)

20,243—number of food stamp claims in North Carolina that have been waiting more than 30 days as of January 24 (“USDA issues more warnings to state health agency, WRAL-TV, January 24, 2014)

11,493—number of food stamp claims that have been pending more than 60 days as of January 24 (Ibid)

8,002—number of food stamp claims that have been pending more than 90 days as of January 24 (Ibid)

5,934—number of food stamp claims that have been pending more than 120 days as of January 24 (Ibid)

8,963—number of cases in which deadline was missed that are hardship cases, where families have very little income (“Federal money for food stamp management could be suspended in March, News & Observer January 24, 2014)

Read the letter from the feds by clicking here . Read the entire column by clicking here.

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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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Mental health workersMembers of UE local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union, will be holding a demonstration this morning at 10:00 am at NC DHHS headquarters on the old Dorothea Dix Hospital campus at 101 Blair Drive, Raleigh. Workers are demanding that Sec. Aldona Wos meet with the union, extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and also grant workers “Safety, Rights and Raises”, which has become the slogan of their current campaign. Senator Don Davis along with Rev. Curtis Gatewood from the N.C. NAACP and Moral Monday movement plan to speak at the rally. UE 150 is inviting the public and all supporters to attend.

Organizer Dante Strobino explains the genesis of the event and some of the indignities visited upon state mental health workers in the following essay.

State mental health workers launch campaign for Safety, Rights and Raises
By Dante Strobino

Jessica Brandon, a mother of three whose 40-year-old husband has had four heart attacks, is the sole wage earner in her family. For the past 5 ½ years she has worked as a healthcare technician at Central Regional Hospital in Butner, North Carolina, one of three state psychiatric hospitals. After paying essential bills for the family, Brandon said, she typically has less than $40 left for the month. Read More