Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Report: McCrory administration suppressed critical Medicaid info

It's common political practice for incoming administrations to tout how good of a job they will do by first explaining how bad of a job their predecessors did. But the incoming administration of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory might have taken the practice too far in trying to paint the state's Medicaid program as broken, according to an investigation published today by North Carolina Health News.

Documents show that Department of Health and Human Services officials deleted key information in the department's response to State Auditor Beth Wood's audit of the Medicaid program under previous governor Bev Perdue. That audit from Wood had alleged high adminstrative costs and budget overruns in the state Medicaid program. The initial response refuting those allegations was written by outgoing Perdue officials.

The edits, done by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and Medicaid head Carol Steckel, include removing whole paragraphs and evidence that North Carolina's administrative costs are lower than most states, rather than 30 percent higher, as McCrory administration officials have contended publicly, Health News reports.

Another example: Steckel removed paragraphs explaining that CommunityCare of North Carolina - a much-lauded network of physicians, pharmacists and health departments - had been studied by two national groups that found cost savings. Instead, Steckel inserted language casting doubt on the program.

The DHHS documents, including the edits, are available online at North Carolina Health News, a not-for-profit news organization founded by Rose Hoban, who reported on health care for six years for North Carolina Public Radio. 

 In a January news conference, with McCrory standing behind her, Wood said North Carolina was spending significantly more on administrative costs than most states. That criticism helped McCrory and Wos characterize the Medicaid program as "broken," which they used as justification to turn down a federal expansion of Medicaid that could have helped a half million North Carolinians.

Of course, if the state's Medicaid program isn't "broken," McCrory might have a more difficult time  justifying the Medicaid privatization he's proposing.

DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz told North Carolina Health News that DHHS officials "stand by our final responses to the audit." That's not good enough. Wos needs to justify the specific deletions  made to the audit response and explain why they removed critical information that might have painted our state's Medicaid program in a far different light.

Peter St. Onge


Edward Martin said...
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