Monthly Archives: October 2013
Study Shows the ACA Will Not Lead Physicians to REDUCE the Number of Medicaid Recipients, Supply and Demand, and Get Me My Pokemon Cards!
A recent “study” by Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins is entitled “Doctors Likely to accept New Medicaid Patients as Coverage Expands.” (I may or may not have belly laughed when I read that title). See my blog “Medicaid Expansion: Bad for the Poor.”
The beginning of the article reads, “The upcoming expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won’t lead physicians to reduce the number of new Medicaid patients they accept, suggests a study in the November issue of Medical Care, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.”
The study was published October 16, 2013. (BTW: From what I can discern from the article, the title actually means that physicians will be forced to accept more Medicaid patients because there will not be additional physicians accepting Medicaid). Odd title.
According to this study, the ACA will not cause doctors to reduce the number of Medicaid patients. What does this study NOT say? Nothing indicates that the ACA, which will allow millions more of Americans to become eligible for Medicaid, will cause MORE physicians to accept Medicaid. Nor does the study state that the ACA will cause physicians to accept MORE Medicaid recipients.
Am I the only person who understands supply and demand?
Anyone remember the 1999 Toys.R.Us.com debacle? On-line shopping was just heating up. I was in law school, and I, as well as millions of others, ordered Christmas presents on-line from Toys R Us. I ordered a bunch of Pokemon trading cards for a nephew…remember those? Me either…I just bought them for my nephew. Toys R Us promised delivery by December 10th.
Toys R Us was, apparently, a very popular store that year, because Toys R Us is unable to package and ship orders in time to meet the December 10th deadline. Nor could Toys R Us meet the deadline of Christmas. Employees were working through the weekends. About two days before Christmas, and just in time to create last-minute havoc during Christmas time, Toys R Us sends out thousands of emails saying, “We’re sorry.”
Obviously, Toys R Us was slammed by the media, and thousands of consumers were highly ticked off…including me.
I had to go to the mall (a place to which I detest going) on Christmas Eve (the worst day to shop of the entire year, except Black Friday, which I also avoid) to get my nephew a present.
Toys R Us learned its lesson. It outsourced its shipping to Amazon.com, which, obviously, has the whole shipping thing down pat.
50 million people are currently eligible for (and receive) Medicaid services (these numbers are purely fictional, as I do not know the real numbers…I basically estimated 1 million per state, which, I am sure, is an underestimation). Say there are 3.5 million physicians that accept Medicaid (70,000/state, which is probably a high estimation, when we are considering only physicians and not health care providers, generally).
Our hypothetical yields 14.28 Medicaid recipients per physician. Or a ratio of 14.28:1.
Media state that, if NC expanded Medicaid, that 587,000 more North Carolinians would be eligible for Medicaid if NC expanded Medicaid.
Using NC as a state average, 29.35 million more people would be eligible for Medicaid if all states expanded Medicaid (obviously not all states are expanding Medicaid, but, in my hypothetical, all states are expanding Medicaid). This equals a total of 79.35 million people in America on Medicaid.
But….no additional physicians….
Because, remember, according to the Lippincott study, the upcoming expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won’t lead physicians to reduce the number of new Medicaid patients they accept. But the ACA does not lead more physicians to accept Medicaid or physicians to accept more Medicaid patients.
This brings the ratio to 22.67:1. 8 1/2 new patients per one physican…and, BTW, that one physician may not be accepting new Medicaid patients or may not have the capacity to accept more Medicaid patients. It’s a Toys R Us disaster!!! No one is getting their Pokemon trading cards!!!
Why not? Why won’t the ACA lead more physicians to accept Medicaid? Why won’t the ACA lead physicians to accept more Medicaid recipients?
Didn’t the ACA INCREASE Medicaid reimbursement rates? Wouldn’t higher reimbursement rates lead more physicians to accept Medicaid and physicians to accept more Medicaid recipients??? I mean, didn’t you hear Obama tout that Medicaid rates would be increased to Medicare rates? I know I did.
One average, Medicaid pays approximately 66% of Medicare reimbursement rates. Obviously, every state differs as to the Medicaid reimbursement rate.
The ACA, however, slashes the Medicare budget by 716 million from 2013 to 2022. The cuts are across-the-board changes in Medicare reimbursement formulas for a variety of Medicare providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice agencies. Furthermore, the ACA creates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which is intended to determine additional Medicare reimbursement rate cuts. IPAB will be creating a new Medicare spending target; it will be comprised of 15 unelected bureaucrats. The board will be able to make suggestions to Congress to reign in Medicare spending, and one of the biggest tools the IPAB has is cutting physician reimbursement rates.
It’s the old smoke and mirrors trick…We will raise Medicaid rates to Medicare rates…pssst, decrease the Medicare rate so we can meet our own promise!!
While I am extremely happy to hear that, at least according to the Lippincott study, the ACA will not lead physicians to reduce the number of Medicaid patients they accept, I am concerned that the ACA will not lead more physicians to accept Medicaid and physicians to accept more Medicaid recipients.
In fact, the study states that “[t]he data suggested that changes in Medicaid coverage did not significantly affect doctors’ acceptance of new Medicaid patients. “[P]hysicians who were already accepting (or not accepting) Medicaid patients before changes in Medicaid coverage rates continue to do so,” Drs Sabik and Gandhi write. I bet the Drs. did not ask, “Would you continue to accept Medicaid, if you knew that your practice would endure more audits, post-payment reviews, possible prepayment reviews, and, in general, suspensions of reimbursements if anyone alleges Medicaid fraud, irrespective of the truth?”
Which tells me…hello…more Medicaid recipients, not more doctors!! Even if the physicians already accepting Medicaid COULD accept additional Medicaid recipient patients, each physician only has a certain amount of capacity. To my knowledge, the ACA did not increase the number of hours in a day. Supply and demand, people!!
Where are my Pokemon cards???!!!
Representative David Price spoke as the Keynote Speaker at the North Carolina Society of Health Care Attorneys annual meeting yesterday morning. Since Representative Price was actually up in Washington D.C. during the shutdown, it was very interesting to hear him speak. His opinion, as one would expect from his ideology, was that the shutdown was idiotic and unnecessary.
What I found interesting was how he described the relationships between congressmen and women today versus in the 90s. Remember, he has represented NC in Washington for more than one decade. He described the relationships, even across party lines, as more cordial in the 90s than today’s relationships. I wonder why our legislative body has become more segregated.
In the afternoon session, Linwood Jones from the North Carolina Hospital Association spoke about recent legislative action. This legislature was not good to hospitals. As Linwood described the legislative session this year…”It was all about Medicaid.” (I know you were wondering how the NC Society of Health Care Attorneys annual meeting was going to be germane to Medicaid). According to Mr. Jones, the Medicaid budget was the primary factor in almost all budget cuts. And what entities get most of Medicaid funding?
Duh…Hospitals. Hospitals are the biggest providers in the state, and, in some areas, the biggest employers.
Our Medicaid budget is approximately $13 billion.
Remember…36 million a day is what we spend on Medicaid in NC.
How much of that $13 billion Medicaid budget goes to hospitals? According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 25.7% for inpatient care. Or $3.341 billion annually. Or $9.252 million a day!!
Including outpatient care? 38.7% Or $5.031 billion annually. Or $13.932 million a day!!
According to the handy-dandy Wikipedia website, North Carolina has 126 hospitals in 83 counties. For those of you who never went to 6th grade in North Carolina, we have 100 counties in NC. (In the 6th grade, if you grew up here, you learn all about North Carolina geography, which apparently didn’t stick, because I still get lost).
That is $13.932 million dollars a day going to 126 hospitals in NC. That is a lot of money!!!
Does Medicaid matter to hospitals?
Heck, yes!! Remember, a hospital cannot turn anyone away, including Medicaid recipients and uninsured. Add the fact that the mentally ill in NC are not getting medically necessary services because our managed care organizations (MCOs) have monetary incentives to NOT provide the expensive mental health services; PLUS the fact that Medicaid reimbursements are painfully low, which leads to many physicians not accepting Medicaid, and you get the sad sum of Medicaid recipients ending up in emergency rooms of hospitals.
Don Dalton, a spokesman for the Hospital Association, said that statewide about 46 percent of hospitals’ revenue comes from Medicaid. (See Rose Hoban’s article).
But, hospitals don’t make a huge profit. Especially on Medicaid recipients.
On average, Medicaid reimburses hospitals 80% of the actual cost for hospital services.
But this year, the General Assembly created a budget in which the 80% will be reduced to 70%.
Medicaid reimbursements were already bad. But now, the Medicaid reimbursements will be 10% worse. Subtract 10% from the $13.932 million dollars a day…
This is not a good thing for hospitals nor Medicaid recipients.
When Representative Price was speaking, a woman raised her hand with a question/vignette. She said that she and her friends had gotten on the health care exchange (Obamacare) (Healthcare.gov) website and “shopped” for health insurance. She said that all the people who signed up for health care exchange (because it is mandated and there is a penalty for not having insurance) had their premiums increase anywhere from 300%-800%. Although Rep. Price made a good point, that they all should have contacted Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and asked why BCBS dropped that particular insurance plan. Nonetheless, the woman harped on the fact that Obama had promised, “You like your insurance? You can keep it! You like your doctor? You can keep him/her!” (I added the “her.”)
So, here we are…with low Medicaid reimbursements to begin with, high medical costs, and the General Assembly reducing the Medicaid rates for hospitals by 10%.
Incentive to accept Medicaid recipients? I think not…but hospitals have no choice.
Physicians and other Medicaid providers have the choice as to whether to accept Medicaid patients, but hospitals? No choice there. Hospitals must accept Medicaid recipients. Mandatory!!!
In my opinion, the very first step toward fixing the Medicaid system is RAISING Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Sound counterintuitive? Yes, I agree it sounds counterintuitive. But think about Medicaid like this:
If you agree with me that Medicaid is an entitlement and that the Medicaid budget is way too high, but that all Medicaid recipients deserve quality health care…if you agree with all that…
And you also agree with me that it is drastically more expensive for Medicaid recipients to go to the emergency room (ER) for health issues that could be solved in a family physicians’ office…if you agree with all that…
Then we would save Medicaid dollars by increasing (drastically) the Medicaid reimbursements. If doctors had a monetary incentive to accept Medicaid, then more doctors would accept Medicaid (Logic 101). If more doctors accept Medicaid, then more Medicaid recipients have the ability to go see a doctor. If more recipients have more office visits then ER visits drop. If more unnecessary ER visits drop, then the State pays less money to the hospitals, which is an extremely higher rate (even with the 10% reduction) than a higher Medicaid reimbursement to physicians. Cut the $13.932 million a day to hospitals, not by decreasing the reimbursement rate, but by fewer Medicaid recipient going to the ER…instead have the recipients receive quality care outside the hospital, thus saving money…
By reducing the Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, the legislature did decrease the Medicaid budget, but not in a way that intelligently attempts to fix the system. The same amount of Medicaid recipients will be going to hospitals. Since the hospitals cannot turn anyone away, reducing reimbursements to hospitals merely hurts the hospitals.
Want to decrease the Medicaid budget? Increase Medicaid reimbursements (drastically) to Medicaid providers. More providers accepting Medicaid means more recipients receiving quality care and NOT checking into the ER….
Money saved intelligently. Too bad the legislature didn’t ask my opinion prior to slashing Medicaid reimbursement rates.
I cannot take credit for this article, but it is important enough to post it. Thomas Mills wrote as follows:
Well, if the rumors swirling around Raleigh are true, Aldona Wos, Secretary of Health and Human Services is gone. If so, it looks like the McCrory administration waited for a Friday afternoon news dump, hoping people are distracted by the weekend. Regardless, the political establishment will take notice and Pat McCrory, who has stood by the embattled Secretary, will have yet another black eye.
But if the rumors aren’t true, they sure should be. Wos has made a mess of the department. She never understood the role of an administrator. She ran off most of the professional staff and brought in political hacks and ideological soul mates with little or no experience in health, human services or administration.
Instead of taking responsibility for her actions or those of the department, she blamed other people. She avoided the press and at one time said she was opposed to transparency. Several times, Wos tried to alter the truth and when she was caught, never explained or apologized. In her appearance before the legislature, she left members of both parties unsatisfied with her answers.
And it doesn’t help that she comes off as arrogant, condescending and elitist. Not a good combination in politics.
But for all her problems, McCrory stood by Wos. Nobody in either party knows exactly why. Some people think it’s her money. Others say he has an intense personal loyalty. Still other say he’s scared of her.
Who knows. But her biggest sin was hanging her boss out to dry. When salary-gate broke, Wos wouldn’t respond to the press leaving McCrory to defend the indefensible. He lied to cover up her stupid hires, saying that the two campaign hacks beat out more experienced people for jobs when, in reality, nobody else was considered. He should have fired her then, but since he didn’t have the backbone, she should have stepped down. With each of her mistakes, McCrory came out to defend her even as his poll numbers sank.
The whole debacle has been a sorry episode. If she’s done, it’s McCrory’s second cabinet secretary to go in less than a year. We still don’t why Kieran Shanahan left, but there won’t be much question about Wos. She was inexperienced, incompetent, ideological and arrogant. She had no business there in the first place. And that is Pat McCrory’s fault.
With Carol Steckel’s abrupt resignation September 27, 2013, only 8 months after accepting the job as NC Medicaid Director, we North Carolinians were left without a Medicaid Director. I posted a week or so ago that I can only imagine how difficult it would be to fill the position, considering the absolute mess the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has created recently…the calamity of NCTracks…the negative PR…the high salaries of administration…Who would want to inherit this mess???
While I cannot imagine the person who would actually apply to be our Medicaid Director in the midst of such storms, I do have some advice for whomever attempts to carry the burden of being NC’s Medicaid Director.
I don’t know why Ms. Steckel left. I’ve heard numerous hypotheses. I’ve heard that she didn’t get along with Sect. Wos. I’ve heard that she left because the NC Medicaid system cannot be fixed. I’ve heard the bad media press upset her. I’ve heard she couldn’t handle the scrutiny of the public.
Regardless, anyone who is thinking of applying to be our Medicaid Director needs to understand that this is a public servant job. This is not a private sector job. Why is that important? Because as an officer in the public arena, you are accountable to the taxpayers. You cannot hide behind rhetoric or stop speaking to media. As a public servant, you have duty to be transparent to taxpayers. You will be scrutinized by the public…and this is allowed.
Recently, Secretary Wos responded with this comment when asked about transparency… “I think the word transparency can get pretty dangerous. … If transparency means that we’re in a planning process and you’re asking us, ‘Tell us all the things you’re planning,’ well, my goodness, allow us to work, and then we’ll give you everything that you want.”
While I understand Sect. Wos’ assertion that if all we do is talk then nothing gets done, in the public sector, transparency is, not only desired by taxpayers, but public servants owe a duty to be transparent. Public servants are not spending their own money. It’s my money and your money. We deserve to know how our money is being spent and we deserve to have an opinion as to whether our money is being spent in an economically intelligent fashion.
For example, my blog about the managed care organizations paying the health insurance for its employees and the employees’ families was to point out that our tax dollars are paying for these employees’ families’ health insurance…tax dollars that are meant to provide health insurance to our most needy population.
Similarly, all the media hype about the high salaries of the two 24-year-old staffers, who were given salaries making $85,000 or more, the media are angered because, again, those salaries are paid by us.
Because the money that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) spends is our money, not private funds, transparency is essential.
A few weeks ago, when I flew to New Mexico, I had to go through airport security. I had to take off my shoes (yuck! and walk on the airport floor), place my purse and laptop on the conveyor belt and step into the “All-Seeing Machine.” You know, the machine that you have to place your feet a little apart and raise your hands above your head, while the machine whirls around your body. I always feel slightly mortified every time I have to go through that machine. I even suck in my breathe a little so my belly doesn’t poke out. It is just a strange feeling to have a stranger look that closely at you and scrutinize your body. You never know what the person looking at your image is thinking. Being scrutinized is not fun.
Similarly, as NC Medicaid Director, and a public servant, you will be scrutinized. Every word. Every action…and non-action.
Remember Mary Poppins? Remember the sweet, little song the two children sang about the criteria for their new nanny?
If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort
You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets
Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water…
Well it applies to the Medicaid Director position too. Here is the “Perfect NC Medicaid Director Song:”If you want this choice position Have an open disposition Know Medicaid laws and rules Don’t treat media as fools You must be strong, you must be smart Very tenacious, open heart Take on naysayers, show guts Move our Agency out of ruts Be transparent, don’t circumvent Never say to media, “No comment.” Love our citizens; our state And always, always update…
I found the job posting for our Medicaid Director on the National Association of Medicaid Directors’ (NAMD) website.
Here it is:
DIRECTOR OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in collaboration with our partners, protects the health and safety of all North Carolinians and provides essential human services.
Within DHHS, the Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) provides access to high quality, medically necessary health care for eligible North Carolina residents through cost-effective purchasing of health care services and products. The Department of Health and Human Services and DMA are devoted to quality customer service.
The Director of Medicaid directs the administration of the state’s Medicaid and NC Health Choice Programs. The Medicaid program serves more that 1.7 million North Carolinians and provides services to children, the elderly, the blind, the disabled and those eligible to receive federally funded assisted income maintenance payments. The North Carolina Health Choice (NCHC) Health Insurance Program for Children is a comprehensive health coverage program for low-income children. The goal of NCHC is to reduce the number of uninsured children in the State. The program focus is on families who make too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private or employer-sponsored health insurance.
DMA has approximately 400 employees and a budget impact of 14 billion dollars which includes 3.8 billion in state appropriations. DMA partners with over 78,000 physician providers throughout the state to provide essential services to recipients. The Director is responsible for multi-million dollar contracts and performs an array of fiscal agent and administrative services which include cost reimbursement and integrated payment management reporting to local management entities (area mental health programs). The position manages the state waiver program and demonstration projects. The Director is the primary interface with the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and for the Committee Management Office. (CMO)
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES:
Prior leadership and policy role in large complex organization administering the Medicaid Program or within a Medicaid Reimbursement or Health Insurance Agency
Demonstrated knowledge of the federal and state funding process for Medicaid and Medicare
Proven ability to build consensus among diverse stake holders which includes constituents, providers, advocacy groups, the media, the public and the legislature
Demonstrated ability to provide leadership during a time of change or reorganization
MINIMUM EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS:
A Masters Degree in Business, Public Health, Health Administration, Social or Clinical Science or a related field and six years of broad management experience in Health Administration or in Healthcare financial management of which at least three years must be at the Director or Assistant Director level of a statewide or federal division in Health Administration or Financial Management.
To be considered for this opportunity please submit a detailed resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, please visit our web site at: www.ncdhhs.gov
All applications will remain confidential.
Equal Opportunity Employer
Nowhere in the advertisement for the NC Medicaid Director does it say what the Medicaid Director ACTUALLY has to do in real life.
Undergo scrutiny. Talk to the public. Maintain transparency. Be a public figure in a time of crisis.
It’s our money. So talk to us.
Hey, have you heard??? Our federal government has shut down. So why am I still getting mail???
Unless you have lived under a rock for the past couple weeks, you are aware that our esteemed federal government has shut down. At least…partially. I keep getting mail. Social security is still getting paid. But don’t you dare try to visit a national monument…those are off-limits!! Really? Who decided what gets shut down and what stays open? How is it that I still get my cable bill, but cannot visit Yellowstone National Park??
How is all this tomfoolery affecting Medicaid? Minimally, in most areas, but Medicaid fundings HAS STOPPED in Washington D.C.
Why stop Medicaid funding in D.C. when the federal air traffic controllers are still working. The State Department continues processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports. The federal courts are open. The National Weather Service is still working. Student loans are still getting paid. The Veterans’ hospitals are all up and running. The military is still working. I guess, Obama and White House staff are still working. (Although Obama could be on the golf course). The Post Office is delivering mail.
Yet, here are some random federal actions and agencies that are actually stopped/closed: Food safety inspections are suspended; U.S. food inspections abroad have also been stopped. Auto recalls and investigations of safety defects are stopped. Taxpayers, who filed for an extension in the spring, still have to pay their taxes by today, yet the IRS is not processing tax returns (How does this make sense??). The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) is not working. (Great, after the CPSC starts working again, there are sure to be numerous lawsuits based on new product defects that have been placed in the market over the last 2 weeks). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ceased to run, which means we have two weeks of allowable pollution. Many at the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the federal housing agency are furloughed.
How does this shutdown make any sense?? Who determined that the IRS should not process tax returns, but should accept taxes? Who decided that safety inspections should be stopped, but passports should still be processed?
That safety inspections of food and products should halt, but students should still get federal loans.
Where is the logic?
It is as if someone said, “Shutdown the federal government!! Except not the mail, passports, and the weather service…keep those running!”
And then Medicaid in D.C…. Why did Medicaid funding stop only in D.C.?? While I still think if the mail is being delivered that D.C. providers could get Medicaid fundings, I will attempt to explain the illogical reason below:
Because D.C. is not a state. D.C. is a local government without a state, so its budget must be authorized by U.S. Congress. And Congress has not passed a budget.
D.C. has $2.7 billion budgeted for Medicaid, but providers are getting nothing (and, quite possibly, some recipients). I can only imagine how this is negatively impacting health care providers in D.C. I am sure many of the providers are still rendering services unpaid. But some, I would imagine, are closing up shop. I know I could not last financially without a paycheck for 3 months. I am sure many of the D.C. providers are no different.
But it still makes no sense. Just like NC, D.C. pays for about 30% of Medicaid with the federal government reimbursing about 70%. If NC’s federal reimbursements are still being paid, why not in D.C.?
And why am I still getting mail????
Well, my heart goes out to all the Medicaid providers and Medicaid recipients in D.C. I hope you receive Medicaid fundings very soon.
Although, at least D.C. providers know that, at some point, the Medicaid funds will be funded; whereas in NC we still have NCTracks.
NC State Auditor, Beth Wood, Calls Out Inaccuracies Stated at the NC Oversight Committee Regarding NCTracks
After the October 8, 2013, Oversight Committee meeting regarding NCTracks, our State Auditor, Beth Wood, had some clarifying remarks. By clarifying, I mean, Wood points out the (we don’t want to use such a harsh words as “lies”) inadvertent mistruths that came to light at the October 8, 2013, Oversight Committee meeting. (Click the blue phrase to see a portion of the video of the actual meeting).
One inadvertent mistruth was as follows:
During the Oversight Committee, Senator Parmon asked Secretary Wos whether any professional opinion had been given to the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) warning DHHS that NCTracks was not ready to go live July 1, 2013.
Secretary Wos answered: “No, Senator.”
Was the State Auditor’s May 2013 Performance Audit explicitly stating that NCTracks was not ready to go live not enough???? Or maybe Secretary Wos did not consider the Performance Audit a “professional opinion.” She may have a point. Perhaps the Performance Audit should be considered “professional fact.”
It is important to remember that this $484 million contract (which price tag has been surpassed) is funded by our tax dollars.
Here is Beth Wood’s response to the Oversight Committee:
October 10, 2013Honorable Justin Burr
NC House of Representatives 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 307A Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Dear Representative Burr,
The Office of the State Auditor has several concerns about incomplete information provided to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services during its committee meeting on October 8, 2013. We would like to clarify some of the information provided to the committee by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services.
1. When Senator Parmon asked Secretary Wos whether the Department of Health and Human Services had received any professional opinions indicating that that the NC Tracks system may not be ready to go-live on July 1, the Secretary responded “No, Senator.” This answer ignores the work of our audit issued on May 22, 2013, titled: “NCTracks (MMIS Replacement) – Implementation.” The State Auditor met and presented Secretary Wos with the findings and recommendations as early as March 27, 2013, to allow her department to begin addressing problems uncovered in the audit.
The audit findings from our report included that:
- Independent assessments regarding system readiness and testing were flawed and put system readiness at risk
- Access control and security environment were at risk on go-live
- No formal criteria framework existed to determine if NCTracks was ready for go-live
“The Department should re-evaluate its current “Go” decision for July 1, 2013, once final Go/No-go criteria is established and documented,” our audit recommended. “This assessment should incorporate the final user acceptance testing and production simulation testing results.”
2. In his presentation, Mr. Cooper referenced NCTracks testing procedures done by DHHS and its vendor, CSC, prior to the July 1 go-live date and indicated that the system had met their benchmarks. Our audit, however, found several shortcomings in the testing of the system.
Our findings indicated that:
- Out of 834 “critical” priority test cases affecting various Medicaid and provider business processes, 123 critical tests had failed and 285 critical test cases were not performed. The department itself defined which business processes were critical, and according to the department, “critical” test cases were absolutely required to be tested.
- Our audit stated, “If user acceptance testing is accepted without addressing these issues, a high risk exists that critical NCTracks functions could have major errors on go-live and possibly lead to a delayed CMS certification of the system.”
- Oversight over the production simulation testing process was inadequate. Our work found that the department allowed CSC to develop the acceptance criteria for its own work, one week prior to the end of the testing phase, and that the department lacked clear test benchmarks.
3. Mr. Cooper stated during this presentation that, “On February 28th we [DHHS] reached a point-of-no-return when the state had to cancel the HP contract.” This contradicts what Department leaders told state auditors during our NCTracks pre-implementation audit. During our audit, DHHS senior leadership repeatedly indicated that the termination of the contract with HP, the vendor for the Medicaid system that was replaced by NCTracks, should not be considered final acceptance of the project.
“According to the Department, the letter to HP does not constitute formal acceptance of the NCTracks system,” our audit states. “The Department has indicated that if the NCTracks system is not ready for go-live on July 1, 2013, HP will be willing to continue its services as long as needed. However, there is no guarantee that this continuation of services would occur or at what cost to the State as this is not in writing.”
The fact that Mr. Cooper and the Department now characterize the contract termination as a “point-of-no-return” indicates that the Department’s decision to go-live did not take into account the actual readiness of the system or the critical risks that were raised between February 28 and June 30.
Our full audit report on NCTracks can be viewed at http://www.ncauditor.net/EPSWeb/Reports/InfoSystems/ISA-2013-4410.pdf.
Our staff is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about our work. If you wish to discuss this information with me, you can contact me at 919-807-7628.
Thank you for your work on behalf of the people of North Carolina.
Sincerely,Beth A. Wood, CPA North Carolina State Auditor