North Carolina's highest ranking health official is stepping down. Aldona Wos has led Governor Pat McCrory's health department since 2013. Her tenure included threats from the federal government over food stamp delays but also significant improvements in the state's Medicaid budget.
Governor McCrory says when he and Wos entered office, this was waiting for them:
"For four consecutive years, there were shortfalls in Medicaid that totaled nearly $2 billion," he said at a press conference Wednesday.
Although there was some debate as to how effective the state was at treating Medicaid patients, there was no question about how bad the state was at budgeting for the program.
McCrory touted how much that's changed.
"This is the second consecutive year the Medicaid program has finished with cash in hand," he said. "And finally, our estimates and our forecasts are becoming more accurate."
Health officials have given a lot of credit to a consulting firm that Wos hired to overhaul the finance division.
The health department also faced significant technological problems during her tenure. Two new systems, NC Tracks and NC FAST, were in development before she took office but rolled out under her leadership.
NC Tracks is used to process Medicaid payments, and some doctors initially called it a nightmare. NC FAST is the online portal for food stamps and other public assistance. Its launch led to such long delays that the federal government threatened to withhold some funding.
"The improvement process has at times been truly painful," Wos said at the press conference Wednesday. "And it has been much slower than I would've desired."
But both NC Tracks and NC FAST are now functioning much better, and Wos says her team worked around the clock to make that happen.
Some state lawmakers previously criticized Wos for how much she paid some of her team. Specifically, lawmakers took issue with large raises she gave a few young staffers.
Wos defended the changes as necessary steps to improve a struggling department.