Politics & Government

Is NC Medicaid too ‘broken’ for expansion? Democrat has questions

As the Senate awaits a budget veto override vote, one of the Democrats who’d previously backed the budget is raising questions about the state’s ability to smoothly expand Medicaid.

Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, sent a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, seeking assurances that the Medicaid system can handle the additional people that would be added under expansion. Davis references comments from State Auditor Beth Wood during a recent radio interview.

According to a transcript, she highlighted problems with the Medicaid program’s transition to a managed care system and tells radio station WTIB that “you just can’t keep putting a bunch of people into a system that is already broken.”

Davis asked Cohen to respond to the auditor’s concerns. “With the budget stalemate, I find it is essential to engage in these conversations and share the most relevant information with my constituents,” he wrote. “While I would like to see us close the Medicaid coverage gap, I also believe we have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure there is accountability in state government.”

Davis’ letter was first reported on a blog post by conservative John Locke Foundation senior vice president Becki Gray, who labeled the post “Is this letter to DHHS Secretary the break in the budget stalemate?” Davis confirmed the letter’s authenticity Tuesday and said he’d like to have the information from DHHS as he considers the budget and Medicaid issues. He’d previously told Carolina Public Press last month that he plans to vote against overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto.

Cohen sent a response letter Tuesday, telling Davis that “North Carolina is well positioned to expand Medicaid and help more than a half-million hard-working North Carolinians access affordable health insurance. Though not perfect our Medicaid program is strong and continues to improve.”

Cohen notes that many of Wood’s comments reference an audit of rate-setting practices used between 2013 and 2016 for Medicaid mental health services.

“She speaks to older issues that have been and continue to be addressed by the Department and incorrectly infers that issues raised in the audit would impact the transition to managed care for physical health services,” she wrote.

Wood, however, also says in the radio interview that her department will have “three more audits coming out of the next 90 days and what you’re gonna see here are agency heads both elected and cabinet secretaries that are just blatantly breaking state policies, state rules, and think nothing of it.”

A spokesman for Wood told the NC Insider on Tuesday that she “doesn’t have a comment” on the topic.

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