Good news arrived today for
taxpayers, mental health patients and scores of newly hired county employees. Mecklenburg County
The county won a reprieve from an earlier order that stripped Mecklenburg of its control of more than $200 million in federal Medicaid money. Now it has a second chance to show that it can successfully launch a new operation to administer that money under new state rules.
N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos reversed her earlier ruling that had confirmed control of the program would move to Cardinal Innovations Health Solutions in
Mecklenburg will have to be up and running by
March 1, and twice before then will have to demonstrate to an outside
consultant that its preparations are on track.
Wos’s decision is good news for
The county stood to waste $3 million it had already spent preparing, and dozens
of employees faced being let go. Most importantly, residents with mental
health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities might now continue to be
part of a system that is overseen locally. Credit goes to Charlotte
lawyer Dan Bishop, who represented Mecklenburg
in its dealings with the state; to top county staff; and to commissioners, who
in a unanimous, bipartisan vote decided to fight the original order.
There are at least two risks still pending. The first is that as part of the settlement,
agreed to give up the program, and its rights to appeal, if the outside
consultant finds the county is running behind. The second is that taxpayers
could be at risk if the county keeps the program but then fails to monitor
Medicaid claims closely enough. The state’s whole effort exists, after all, to
rein in costs.
It’s not surprising that
commissioners learned Wednesday’s news not from Bishop or county staff but from
reporters asking questions about it. The county’s communications troubles
continue. On this day, however, applause over the outcome drowns out criticism
of how it was communicated.
-- Taylor Batten