NC State Health Plan’s top administrator abruptly resigns, says Folwell has ‘different vision’

Mona Moon has resigned from her position as the executive administrator in charge of day-to-day operations for the N.C. State Health Plan.
Mona Moon has resigned from her position as the executive administrator in charge of day-to-day operations for the N.C. State Health Plan.

Mona Moon, who has been the executive administrator in charge of day-to-day operations for the N.C. State Health Plan for the last four years, has abruptly resigned.

Moon’s resignation, which she submitted Tuesday and took effect immediately, comes after The News & Observer reported on May 19 that a provision in the state budget recently approved by the Senate would give North Carolina’s Treasurer the sole authority to dismiss the health plan’s executive administrator. Under current state law, the Treasurer can dismiss the executive administrator “after consultation” with the plan’s Board of Trustees.

The State Health Plan, which is a division of the Department of State Treasurer, provides health care coverage to more than 700,000 teachers, state employees, state retirees and their dependents.

Moon joined the health plan as chief financial officer in August 2008 and was named executive administrator in April 2013. Her annual salary was $224,316. Before joining the State Health Plan she was chief business operations officer for the division of medical assistance at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s a loss to the State Health Plan,” said John Hammond, a former member of the health plan’s board of trustees and a professor emeritus at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “She knew the ins and outs of the healthcare system.”

Hammond also said that he fears that the provision in the Senate budget would blatantly politicize the State Health Plan if it makes it into the final state budget. In addition to giving the Treasurer sole authority to fire the executive administrator, it would also give the Treasurer the authority to hire and fire the plan’s professional staff.

Moon couldn’t be reached for an interview but issued the following statement via e-mail:

“Treasurer Folwell has a different vision and strategy for the State Health Plan than former Treasurer Janet Cowell, as is to be expected with any change in leadership. I spoke with Treasurer Folwell a few weeks ago about my role as executive administrator and suggested he might want to consider someone who shares his vision and approach. He believed I could be that person.

“He did not ask me to resign, and while the recent N&O article highlights a professional difference, I did not resign because of the article. I resigned because I still believe he should fill the role with someone who more closely shares his vision and management style.”

Treasurer Dale Folwell, a Republican elected to his first term in November who has described the health plan as broken, said Moon gave him no reason for her resignation.

“We were just meeting and she just came out and said I’m prepared to resign right now,” Folwell said. “And I said, ‘thank you.’ 

Folwell said Moon also told him “that she had been thinking of her next moves for some time.”

Folwell said he didn’t pressure Moon to resign.

“From the day I was elected to the day that I was sworn in, for the first 110 days I was the Treasurer, her not being the director of the State Health Plan was never on my radar. Ever,” Folwell said. “And when something’s on my radar I just wear it on my shoulder and tell people.”

Folwell requested the measure in the Senate budget that would put the State Health Plan more firmly in the Treasurer’s grip. In an interview with The News & Observer earlier this month, Folwell was asked if he planned to dismiss Moon if the Senate provision makes it into the final budget.

“I (could have) dismissed Mona Moon three months ago,” he replied. “I could have dismissed her and then consulted with the board. That’s the way I’ve always thought about it.”

Folwell added at that time: “You should ask Mona that. You should ask her is she’s seeking employment.”

Moon declined to comment on her personal situation at that time.

Folwell recently has overseen the hiring of two officials with no previous experience in health insurance or health care into director-level positions at the health plan. He has said that he hired people with “integrity, ability and passion” who could implement changes that are needed.

But Folwell said with regard to hiring a replacement for Moon: “Somebody with medical experience and insurance experience is obviously important to me as I fill this role.”

But, he also noted, that kind of experience “doesn’t trump integrity, ability and passion.”

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii