Wos loses confidence of Republican legislators

March 31, 2014 

There has been evidence aplenty that Aldona Wos, the state secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, isn’t up to the job. A medical doctor, former ambassador and major Republican political contributor, Wos was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory as the person to fix DHHS, which McCrory believes was part of a state government that overall was “broken” by Democrats.

The governor has repeatedly defended Wos over six-figure consulting contracts (one of them given to an employee of Wos’ husband) and over the chaotic organizational problems in Medicaid and the food stamp program.

But despite the governor’s attempt to rally the Republican troops around his secretary, the evidence mounts and now GOP legislators appear to have had enough.

At a hearing of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations last week, some Republican lawmakers expressed their displeasure with the way DHHS is running.

One, state Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville, majority leader in his GOP-run chamber, said Wos’ department wasn’t giving lawmakers enough “reliable data” to help them formulate a budget. He criticized NC Tracks, the Medicaid claims system, the fact that thousands of Medicaid cards had been mailed to the wrong addresses, the problems with delays in food stamps and the loss of key personnel.

All of that sadly is true. And yet Wos expects, apparently, to gather support from Republican lawmakers with a new plan to reform the Medicaid program.

“How can we as a General Assembly,” Brown asked, “feel safe or comfortable that you can implement a reform package when we still have all these problems?”

Wos’ excuses are getting a old. And they’re predictable. She lays blame, of course, on the previous administration under former Gov. Beverly Perdue. There were vacancies when McCrory took office, she says, and there was the challenge of putting together a new technology program that included NC Tracks (where there have been repeated problems) and then, of course, there was the difficulty of dealing with the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans blame for virtually everything. e

But here’s the problem with all those excuses. They’re worn out. Pat McCrory has been in office for more than a year. At this point, at least if one believed his campaign rhetoric, he was going to have the state’s economy booming and state government running in a leaner, more efficient way. He kept pronouncing that his cabinet was the greatest in the country. But his Department of Public Safety secretary left office quickly, his Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla is under fire for the dismantling of regulations and the response to the Duke Energy coal ash spill, and Wos is now drawing bipartisan criticism.

Her explanation as to why there are key vacancies is at once curious and cruelly ironic. She told lawmakers that she is having trouble finding people to fill key jobs. “Please,” she said, “I beg everyone, step up to public service and apply for those jobs. Otherwise, we’re going to need outside consultants and you’re aware of the finances behind that.”

Oh, yes, we’re painfully aware. So Wos is appealing to the spirit of public service to have people come to DHHS, a chaotic work environment to put it mildly? Just why exactly would they do that? It’s like asking someone to catch on with a roller-coaster in mid-ride with half the cars hanging off the side.

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