Editorial: State ignoring problems costs you money

Mar. 02, 2014 @ 01:40 AM

What can explain the lack of public outrage at the messes created and continuing under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ watch?

Perhaps people are hard-hearted toward those on food stamps, so the fact that people struggle on for weeks or months, relying on emergency help from food pantries and other charities because a failing computer system can't process their benefits as quickly as it is supposed to, doesn’t move them.

Perhaps they regard hospitals and doctors as wealthy corporations and individuals, so that the fact they aren’t getting paid for the care provided to Medicaid patients doesn’t strike people as a crisis.

Perhaps their regard for government integrity is so low already that the series of crony hires and extremely highly paid “consultants” at DHHS doesn’t strike them as anything unusual.

If so, try this: DHHS is passing on unfunded mandates to every county, and thus every taxpayer, in the entire state.

The NCFAST computer system for handling food stamps is an abysmal failure, but DHHS officials simply refuse to acknowledge it, meanwhile mandating all county-based social services offices must keep the system up to date. Because NCFAST is such a failure, that requires a great deal of extra work, which means either counties must hire more people, pay a great deal of overtime, or give workers a great deal of promised vacation time – the latter of which means that unless NCFAST suddenly gets better, counties relying on providing vacation time are merely postponing the day of reckoning and the cost.

In Caldwell County alone the cost came to more than $150,000 since January 2013. Who’s paying that? You are.

The cost of the Medicaid billing troubles may be less obvious, but it’s still going to come home to hit your pocketbook. If hospitals and doctors can’t get reimbursed in a fashion timely enough to keep up with their own bills, what do you think eventually has to happen? Services get affected – perhaps curtailed, or perhaps the costs get shifted by raising prices for those who can pay. It’s simple math. No business, even a non-profit one, can keep providing a service that costs more than the total amount of money it brings in. No matter what, you here in Caldwell County will pay for that.

The people now in charge in Raleigh used to be the group that railed the loudest about unfunded mandates from the federal government, but they seem to have no qualms about passing on unfunded mandates to the counties through DHHS. And because they seem hell-bent on adhering to the pre-set timetable for expanding NCFAST to handle other benefit programs without first fixing the system, the problems – and the costs passed on to local taxpayers – can do nothing but get worse.

It’s well beyond time for the politicians in Raleigh to stop pretending DHHS is operating well and taking care of both this state’s less fortunate and those who provide vital services for them.

And it’s in your own best interest as a taxpayer to tell them to wake up.