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McCrory tells Medicaid employees about breaking silos

Employees with the state Medicaid office were called together Wednesday morning for a big staff meeting. Rumors swirled that it would be about July 1 switch-over to the new Medicaid claims billing system.

Instead, they heard from top state Department of Health and Human Services officials about how they're fixing Medicaid and how they have to control the budget. And Gov. Pat McCrory dropped for a pep talk.

Sources say he mentioned something about silos and how they should be broken.

State hygienists ask senators to spare their jobs and kids' teeth

Dental hygienists who work for the state took the day off Wednesday to tell senators how important their jobs are to keeping children's teeth in good shape.

The Senate budget proposal cuts the Oral Health section in the state Department of Health and Human Services, which includes 39 hygienists who work to prevent cavities in school-age and pre-school age children.

Sixteen of the 39 were knocking on senators' doors Wednesday.

The state traveling hygienists put sealants on eligible children's teeth at school and refer them to dentists for fillings, said Wendy Schwade, a hygienists from Durham who works in Granville, Vance and Person counties. The state hygienists work in 80 counties, according to information from the office.

The Senate budget cuts all the jobs and $2.8 million, and sends $1.6 million to local health departments that sponsor dental clinics. But 51 counties don't have dental programs that would be eligible to take the diverted funds, according to the Oral Health office.

The House budget proposal spares the office.

New state social services director

Wayne Black will be the state social services director starting Monday.

Black was the director of social services in three counties, Mitchell, Yadkin and Surry, and is a former president of the N.C. Association of County Directors of Social Services. He's worked for county social services departments for the last 37 year, said the state Department of Health and Human Services.

DHHS announced Black's appointment Thursday, but folks in the mountains have known since April. The Surry County Board of Commissioners gave Black his farewell plaque last week.

DHHS leader offers puzzling take Medicaid expansion

Aldona Wos, head of the state Department of Health and Human Services, gave a strange and inaccurate response when challenged on the decision not to expand Medicaid, North Carolina Health News reports.

Wos was speaking in Reidsville, one of the stops on a tour to sell a managed care plan for Medicaid.

When challenged by a doctor on the decision not to expand the government health insurance to about 500,000 working-class people, Wos said state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin made the decision.

Um, no.

That decision came from the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory, who hired Wos.

UPDATE: Ricky Diaz, communications director for DHHS, explains:

“The Secretary was talking broadly about the Insurance Commissioner’s oversight authority over the health care insurance industry in North Carolina, and it is unfortunate that her remarks were taken out of context.”

UPDATE: On Saturday evening, North Carolina Health News posted an audio of Wos' remarks. Judge for yourself.

New state Medicaid director coming from Louisiana

Carol Steckel is the new director of the Medicaid office. She'll be coming from Louisiana, where she's director of the Center for Health Care Innovation at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

She starts her new job on Jan. 22 at a salary of $210,000 a year.

Steckel will be in charge of the state Division of Medical Assistance, which runs the state's $12 billion Medicaid program. The government health insurance program covers about 1.8 million residents.

"Ms. Steckel has an extensive background in health policy and government, having served as commissioner of the Alabama Medicaid Agency and spearheading the state of Louisiana's response to the Affordable Care Act," said state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

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