DHHS Medicaid planner leaves highly paid job

08/26/2014 6:54 PM

08/27/2014 5:49 AM

A woman state health officials hired a year ago to work on Medicaid alternatives – a new position that paid $95,000 annually despite her thin resume – is resigning.

Margaret “Mardy” Peal will leave Sept. 19, to take advantage of an opportunity that will allow her, a single mother, to be at home with her children more often, according to her resignation letter.

Peal, 43, was hired by the state Department of Health and Human Services as a senior planner. Her salary was $20,000 a year more than the highest category of planner in DHHS, but was allowed because she was a political hire exempt from civil-service protections and restrictions.

Although she received a master’s degree in health education from East Carolina University, and spent three years as a lecturer in standardized patient care at the university’s Brody School of Medicine, she had been absent from the health care labor force for more than 10 years.

She served on the board of a Greenville pregnancy center that discourages women from having abortions, and organized the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party’s first rally, in 2009.

Her hiring at DHHS drew criticism because it fit into a pattern of controversial personnel decisions by Secretary Aldona Wos, including high pay for young, inexperienced officials, and a contract with someone who works for her husband’s company.

As part of a team working on overhauling the Medicaid system, Peal helped develop focus groups around the state that brought together doctors, hospitals and other stakeholders to explore options to help control costs.

The McCrory administration proposed that doctors and hospitals form “accountable care organizations” that would be held responsible for the medical services they provided and how much they spent. These ACO provider networks would have shared money saved if they spent less than anticipated while showing Medicaid patients were getting good care.

The House adopted a version of the plan that would have required provider-led groups to be fully responsible for Medicaid budget overruns by 2020. The Senate did not agree to either plan, and nothing was resolved before the session ended.

“I want to thank Mardy for her service to the state and for being a valuable member of our team,” Dr. Robin Cummings, the state’s Medicaid director, said in a statement.

In her resignation letter, Peal called her time at DHHS “the high point of my professional experience” and praised Wos for her “passion and tireless commitment to taking care of North Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens.” Staff writer Lynn Bonner contributed.

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