Local News

State Auditor Finding Unlikely Allies With Recent Medicaid Report

Posted April 23, 2004

— An audit that questions more than $400 million in Medicaid payments to hospitals has become the source of election year in-fighting for Democrats. It is also political fodder for Republicans, and the state auditor finds himself right in the middle.

Auditor Ralph Campbell called the Medicaid report the most damaging of his career, and he has taken a lot of heat for it. Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom, a fellow Democrat, hammered Campbell's audit as old news. Her boss, Gov. Mike Easley, has stood by her.

"I've got a lot of confidence," Easley said.

Now, the North Carolina Hospital Association is criticizing Campbell. In a letter, President William Pully criticizes the audit for factual misstatements, inaccurate conclusions, and misrepresentations. He wrote that the report could cause "irreparable harm to hospitals."

As Campbell continues to take criticism, the Democrat is getting support from unlikely allies. Republican gubernational candidate Richard Vinroot called Campbell a shining light while pinning the mess on Easley.

"However you look at it, I regard it as a massive mess," he said.

Republican Bill Cobey already has political ads running that blame Easley, but he carefully credits Campbell for his report.

"He's the guy who blew the whistle and it seems like they're trying to shoot the messenger," Cobey said.

However, Cobey said it may be time for a change.

"I clearly believe we need another state auditor," he said.

Because the report is now in the hands of other officials like the attorney general and the FBI, Campbell said legal counsel has advised him not to comment further.

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