NC public health chief also to oversee Medicaid

Posted February 11, 2014 11:03 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2014 11:21 a.m. EST

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

— Dr. Robin Cummings has been put in charge of North Carolina's Medicaid program, which Gov. Pat McCrory's administration is trying to overhaul to rein in costs and improve efficiency.

Heading the Division of Medical Assistance comes in addition to Cummings' duties as acting state health director and deputy secretary of health services for the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Dr. Cummings is a North Carolina native who is well-known and respected for his career as a cardiovascular surgeon," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement. "Since leaving the active practice of medicine, Dr. Cummings has demonstrated proven leadership skills in the health care industry. He understands firsthand how Medicaid affects beneficiaries and providers and that will greatly benefit DMA during this transformation."

Carol Steckel left as North Carolina's Medicaid director last fall, after only eight months on the job, to work for a Florida-based managed care company.

Cost overruns in the state's $13 billion Medicaid program have caused budgeting problems for lawmakers for years.

Wos and McCrory want to move toward a managed care model that would pay a group of providers a flat fee for each of the 1.6 million North Carolinians served by the health care program, shifting any profit or loss in providing that care off the state budget and onto the companies' books. Lawmakers have given the plan a lukewarm response, and a five-person panel has been traveling the state in recent months to gather input from providers, advocates and others about how best to reform Medicaid.

Cummings will now lead that transformation effort.

"The historical challenges facing Medicaid have been well documented, and these challenges are now being compounded by unprecedented change in the health care industry," he said in a statement. "To preserve Medicaid for future generations, we must improve and strengthen the operations of the state's Medicaid program. I look forward to working with the expertise in the division to accomplish this worthy goal."

Last week, DHHS signed contracts with Alvarez & Marsal and Navigant Healthcare to help improve the state's Medicaid operations. Consultants at Ernst & Young also recommended a variety of changes to improve budget forecasting capabilities.