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Op-Ed: Steckel - Medicaid staff to be vigilant, creative

Fayetteville Observer

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Contact: news@dhhs.nc.gov
              919-855-4840

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos met with all of the employees in North Carolina's Medicaid agency to remind us about the importance of our work and the responsibility we have to the people of North Carolina.

"There is no issue more important and consequential than Medicaid and Medicaid reform for the long-term health of our state," the governor told us.

Each year in North Carolina we spend more than $13 billion on Medicaid. That's $36 million each day to provide critical services to more than 1.5 million of our state's most vulnerable residents. But over the last few years, it seems that we in the Medicaid agency lost sight of the impact we have on our state and our people - both negative and positive.

Unfortunately, there has been a pattern of cost overruns - hundreds of millions of dollars that our legislature had to appropriate at the last minute to cover unexpected expenditures. During his visit, the governor reminded us about this "huge responsibility," and that our work "is critical to the entire government," having an impact on services beyond just Medicaid. Because of the unexpected expenditures, he explained, our legislature has a more difficult time budgeting for our state's other priorities, such as education, transportation and even merit raises for state employees.

It was a message warmly received by all in the state's Medicaid agency. After all, the accuracy, precision and credibility of the information and data we produce are critical, because if we make a small mistake in Medicaid, there can be dire consequences for other services in the state's budget. The governor and secretary reminded us that we are all a part of a larger team - from the newest hire to the person who has been at the department for 30 years, from the administrative assistants, program analysts and managers to the governor. The people of North Carolina are counting on us to get this right.

Reaction

To meet the governor's challenge, we are rapidly changing the culture of government within the state's Medicaid agency. Where before mistakes and inaccuracies were the norm, we are challenging and empowering employees to work collaboratively and to communicate with each other to improve the quality of our data and reports we produce. If employees spot an issue, they are expected and encouraged to take action and let someone know who can evaluate the issue and correct it. Secretary Wos and I have an open-door policy and welcome employees to bring such issues to us for evaluation and action if necessary.

We are inviting employees to bring new ideas to the table in a way they have never been asked to do before. Where before, creativity was discouraged, it is now encouraged. We expect employees to think outside the box to help improve the system. Most important, we expect employees to question every decision they make, and think about how it affects the bigger picture. We expect our team members to be engaged and focused on doing what is right, and not what "has always been done," to best serve the residents of North Carolina.

As North Carolina's Medicaid director, improving the way we administer the Medicaid program is more than a priority for me; it is my mission. I take seriously our program's responsibilities to the taxpayers and to the residents we serve. I, and the other employees at Medicaid, are blessed to have jobs where we know that because of the work we do, someone's life is improved. It is that belief that encourages us to continue to push for the much-needed culture change in the Medicaid Division. I know this change will provide much-needed improvements in the Medicaid program, and for the people of North Carolina.

Read more here: http://fayobserver.com/articles/2013/06/26/1265696?sac=fo.opinion

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