Under the Dome

Dome: Transparency can be a 'pretty dangerous' word, DHHS secretary says

Staff writersApril 4, 2013 

During a news conference Wednesday about Medicaid, a reporter reminded state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos that her office had refused to turn over records, including the written responses to her office’s request for ideas for changing Medicaid, saying they would not be made public because they contained proprietary information.

“Already we’re not seeing transparency,” said the reporter, Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News.

“I think the word transparency can get pretty dangerous,” Wos replied. “Because what does transparency mean? If transparency means that we’re in a planning process and you’re asking us, ‘Tell us all the things you’re planning,’ well, my goodness, allow us to work, and then we’ll give you everything that you want. But allow us the intellectual capacity just to do our job.”

She did not address why the responses were being kept secret, or why the development of health policy contained elements of danger.

Beth Grace, executive director of the N.C. Press Association, disagreed with Wos. “There is nothing dangerous about transparency,” Grace said. “A responsible public official always makes time to serve the people who put them into office. Sharing information is what we’re all about in a democracy.”

State union opposes plan

The State Employees Association of North Carolina highlighted high-profile problems with Medicaid managed care in other states as it voiced its objection to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal.

McCrory on Wednesday announced a plan that would open the state’s Medicaid business to management by for-profit companies. Each of the state’s 1.5 million Medicaid recipients would sign up for coverage with one of three or more companies. The companies would receive a set amount of money per person, and would be liable for overspending

In its objection, SEANC noted problems with Medicaid managed care in Kentucky, Texas and New Jersey. In Kentucky, providers complain of late payments and one managed care company has pulled out of the state.

“McCrory stated the move would control costs, provide a better quality of care and increase efficiency,”says the email signed by SEANC executive director Dana Cope. “SEANC shares with the governor these goals for Medicaid, but we differ with the underlying premise that privatization is the key to fixing the Medicaid budget, providing better care or efficiencies.”

Bill delays new school grading

Legislation delaying a new grading system for North Carolina’s public schools passed the state House with near-unanimous support Thursday, leading to a showdown with Senate Republican leaders.

The bill, H435, would delay until Aug. 1, 2014, the release of A through F letter grades for individual schools based on factors such as passing rates on exams and graduation rates. The grading system, which was introduced by Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger as past of last year’s budget, is set to start this year.

The House bill would also make it easier for schools to get higher grades than Berger’s model. The House would let schools raise their letter grade if they’re showing growth on exams even if their passing rates is low.

The House bill, which passed by a 105-4 vote, now goes to the Senate. The Senate Education Committee will consider Wednesday Berger’s bill, S361. It would, among other things, set out how the grading system would work and end tenure for teachers.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner and T. Keung Hui

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