The news conference laying out Gov. Pat McCrory's plan for Medicaid managed care took an unexpected turn when a reporter asked about transparency.
Apparently, state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos does not like being asked for draft public documents. The state Supreme Court has ruled that drafts of public agency reports are public records.
Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News (www.northcarolinahealthnews.org) got the whole thing started Wednesday when reminded Wos that her office deemed some of the responses to her office's request for ideas for changing Medicaid would be shielded from public view because they contained proprietary information.
"Already we're not seeing transparency," Hoban said.
Wos replied, "I think the word transparency can get pretty dangerous. Because what does transparency mean? If transparency means that we're in a planning process and you're asking us tell us, 'Tell us all the things your planning,'' well, my goodness allow us to work and then we'll give you everything that you want. But allow us the intellectual capacity just to do our job."
Beth Grace, executive director of the N.C. Press Association, disagreed. "There is nothing dangerous about transparency," Grace said.
"A responsible public official always makes time to serve the people who put them into office. Sharing information is what we're all about in a democracy."
Wos did not address why responses DHHS received on Medicaid changes were being kept secret, or why the development of health policy contained elements of danger. But she continued on about draft documents, and compared developing public policy to writing a news article.
"Let's define what transparency means," Wos said. "Everything is a process. You have to be able to work in a draft form of something, just as you do," she said.
"I have lived under socialism, under communism, under social democracy and under democracy, so if there's anyone, anyone you know who firmly believes in transparency and democracy and its freedom, it is most certainly me. But transparency cannot be used as a tool to prevent people from working."