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A Reality Check for NC DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos

Yesterday I spent at a legislative hearing listening to the NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and her management team get grilled by both Republicans and Democrats on high salaries, severance payments after a month of work that exceed what a teacher makes in a year, and their latest plans to privatize NC’s Medicaid system.

For great a overview, see Clayton Henkel’s summary and Sarah Ovaska’s comprehensive story.  

Also yesterday, Rose Hoban’s NC Health News bombshell story  was released detailing how NC DHHS Medicaid head Carol Steckel (who resigned a couple weeks ago) fundamentally changed the DHHS response to the state auditors critical Medicaid audit earlier this year to leave damaging incorrect information about NC’s Medicaid and Community Care programs uncontested.

At the hearing, Wos announced a new consultant from the managed care industry, Bob Atlas, has been hired at $250 an hour to help DHHS, but his $2,250 presence at the General Assembly yesterday probably didn’t do them any favors. For me, the low point of the meeting was the citation by one of Wos’ management team of the business book From Good to Great as the DHHS bible for hiring and reorganizing. My alternative reading list additions would include Profiles in Courage and Nickel and Dimed, especially since some fo the largest companies featured in From Good to Great either went bankrupt (Circuit City) or required billions in federal bailouts (Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae). 

For me the day boiled down to this. The people in charge of our biggest and most important agency, running government programs that affect our poorest and most vulnerable people the most profound ways, have seriously lost their way. They have no respect from the health care providers that do the hard work of caring for our disabled, elderly and children. They see $250 an hour managed care consultants as a “reasonable expense.” And they describe the work of overpaid 24 year old spokespeople making $85,000 a year as “monumental” for the state of North Carolina. A reality check is clearly needed.

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