State won’t return Medicaid program to county

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by DAVID PERLMUTT / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on January 7, 2013 at 3:43 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The N.C. Health and Human Services secretary told Mecklenburg leaders Monday that she’s standing by a decision to reassign supervision of the county’s federal Medicaid funds fund for mental health services to an outside company.

In an 8-minute teleconference with Mecklenburg officials, DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said that she concurred with former acting Secretary Albert Delia to redirect about $200 million away from the county’s MeckLINK Behavioral Healthcare and let Kannapolis-based Cardinal Innovations Health Solutions administer the money.

“She said she wants to follow the law,” said Mecklenburg commission Chair Pat Cotham, one of several county officials on the call. “She said she was very sorry that had to happen, that she knew we worked on this aggressively.

“But she said several times that this has been going on a number of years and she needed to ‘close the circle.’”

Cotham called a meeting for Tuesday afternoon to discuss the matter and hear from Charlotte lawyer Dan Bishop, hired by County Manager Harry Jones, about whatever legal remedies, if any, the county might have.

Legally, Wos and Delia had no other choice. State law required that Delia decide by Dec. 31 if MeckLINK was ready to start the program by a soft launch date of Feb. 1. The official launch date is July 1.

The state’s consultant concluded that MeckLINK wouldn’t be ready, so Delia on his last day in office gave the program to Cardinal.

Wos said she was “following the legislation” by concurring with Delia, Cotham said.

If Mecklenburg loses the program, it will be faced with laying off at least 200 people hired to implement the services through MeckLINK. It would also waste about $3 million already spent preparing for implementation.

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