You could hear the outrage in the voices of some of the NC legislators (finally, for the love of God – our General Assembly has taken the blinders off their eyes regarding the MCOs) at the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice on Tuesday, December 6, 2016, when Cardinal Innovations‘, a NC managed care organization (MCO) that manages our Medicaid behavioral health care in its catchment area, CEO, Richard Topping, stated that his salary was raised this year from $400,000 to $635,000 – with our tax dollars. (Whoa – totally understand if you have to read that sentence multiple times; it was extraordinarily complex).
Senator Tommy Tucker (R-Waxhaw) was especially incensed. He said, “I received minutes from your board, Sept. 16 of 2016, they made that motion, that your 2017 comp package, they raised your salary from $400,000 to $635,000, they gave you a 0 to 30 percent bonus potential which could be roughly another $250,000 and also you have some sort of annuity or long-term package of $412,000,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker.
Sen. Tucker was not alone.
Representative Dollar was also concerned. But even more surprising than our legislators stepping up to the plate and holding an MCO accountable (MCOs have expensive lobbyists – with our tax dollars), the State’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Rick Brajer was visibly infuriated. He spoke sharply and interrogated Topping as to his acute income increase, as well as the benefits attached.
As a health care blogger, I receive so many emails from blog readers, including parents of disabled children, who are not receiving the medically necessary Medicaid behavioral health care services for their developmentally disabled children. MCOs are denying medically necessary services. MCOs are terminating qualified health care providers. MCOs are putting access to care at issue. BTW – even if the MCOs only terminated 1 provider and stopped 1 Medicaid recipient from receiving behavioral health care services from their provider of choice, that MCO would be in violation of federal law access to care regulations. But, MCOs are terminating multiple – maybe hundreds – of health care providers. MCOs are nickeling and diming health care providers. Yet, CEO Topping will reap $635,000+ as a salary.
The MCOs, including Cardinal, do not have assets except for our tax dollars. They are not incorporated. They are not private entities. They are extensions of our “single state agency” DHHS. The MCOs step into the shoes of DHHS. The MCOs are state agencies. The MCOs are paid with our tax dollars. Our tax dollars should be used (and are budgeted) to provide Medicaid behavioral health care services for our most needy and to be paid to those health care providers, who still accept Medicaid and provide services to our most vulnerable population. News alert – These providers who render behavioral health care services to Medicaid recipients do not make $635,000/year, or anywhere even close. The reimbursement rates for Medicaid is paltry, at best. Toppings should be embarrassed for even accepting a $635,000 salary. The money, instead, should go to increasing the reimbursements rates – or maintaining a provider network without terminating providers ad nauseum. Or providing medically necessary services to Medicaid recipients.
Rest assured, Cardinal is not the only MCO lining the pockets of its executives. While both Trillium and Alliance, other MCOs, pay their CEOs under $200,000 (still nothing to sneeze at). Alliance, however, throws its tax dollars at private, legal counsel. No in-house counsel for Alliance! Oh, no! Alliance hires expensive, private counsel to defend its actions. Another way our tax dollars are at work. And – my question – why in the world does Alliance, or any other MCO, need to hire legal counsel? Our State has perfectly competent attorneys at our Attorney General’s office, who are on salary to defend the state, and its agencies, for any issue. The MCOs stand in the shoes of the State when it comes to Medicaid for behavioral health. The MCOs should utilize the attorneys the State already employs – not a high-dollar, private law firm. These are our tax dollars!
There have been few times that I have praised DHHS in my blogs. I will readily admit that I am harsh on DHHS’ actions/nonactions with our tax dollars. And I am now not recanting any of my prior opinions. But, last Tuesday, Sec. Brajer held Toppings feet to the fire. Thank you, Brajer, for realizing the horror of an MCO CEO earning $635,000/year while our most needy population goes under-served, and, sometimes not served at all, with medically necessary behavioral health care services.
What is deeply concerning is that if Sec. Brajer is this troubled by actions by the MCOs, or, at least, Cardinal, why can he not DO SOMETHING?? Where is the supervision of the MCOs by DHHS? I’ve read the contracts between the MCOs and DHHS. DHHS is the supervising entity over the MCOs. Our Waiver to the federal government promises that DHHS will supervise the MCOs.
If the Secretary of DHHS cannot control the MCOs, who can?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 2, 2013 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Raleigh, N.C. – The public is invited to the Medicaid Reform Advisory Group’s first meeting Dec. 5, 2013. The advisory group will collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services in its development of a detailed plan to reform North Carolina’s Medicaid system. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting and become involved in improving health care in North Carolina while controlling escalating Medicaid costs.
The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 5, 2013, at:
The Grill on the Hill
DHHS/Dorothea Dix Campus, behind the McBryde Building
Parking is available off of Whiteside Drive. A map of the DHHS/Dorothea Dix campus is available at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dsohf/services/dix_map.pdf <http://ncdhhs.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=58ec19aaea4630b1baad0e5e4&id=034d4a8058&e=678f6cc5b6> .
The first meeting will help:
- Educate members on reform models in other states
- Build consensus on principles of reform
- Outline options for reform
The Medicaid Reform Advisory Group, as instructed by the General Assembly, will obtain broad stakeholder input in a public forum and ensure transparency in the proposal development process. The advisory group will work with DHHS as it explores all options to come up with the best plan for North Carolina, and has three citizens appointed by Governor McCrory, a state representative and senator:
- Dennis Barry (Guilford County), advisory group chair – Barry is CEO emeritus of Cone Health, a multihospital system serving the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
- Peggy Terhune (Randolph County) – Terhune is the executive director/CEO of Monarch since 1995. She has worked with people with disabilities for more than 35 years.
- Richard Gilbert, M.D., M.B.A. (Mecklenburg County) – Dr. Gilbert has served as the chief of staff for Carolinas Medical Center and was the chief of the Department of Anesthesiology for Carolina’s Medical Center for 20 years.
- Representative Nelson Dollar (Wake) – Appointed by House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis.
- Senator Louis Pate (Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne) – Appointed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Phil Berger.
More information on the governor’s appointees can be found at governor.nc.gov/newsroom/press-releases <http://ncdhhs.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=58ec19aaea4630b1baad0e5e4&id=d02b8f54b1&e=678f6cc5b6> .
Since its inception in 1970, the N.C. Medicaid program has evolved into an essential component of the state’s health care system. It currently serves approximately 1.7 million low-income parents, children, seniors and people with disabilities.
The Medicaid Reform Advisory Group will hold additional meetings during which stakeholders will have the opportunity to publicly comment on the reform process. Public notices will be issued with the dates, times and locations.
DHHS will present a reform proposal to the General Assembly no later than March 17, 2014.