WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Three Forsyth County members of the state legislative Black Caucus demanded this morning that Gov. Pat McCrory ask the state’s health secretary, Dr. Aldona Wos, to step down in light of a series of mishaps, including the recent mailing of Medicaid identification cards of nearly 49,000 children to the wrong addresses.
“We have a lot of hurting people in North Carolina and they do not deserve to wait for benefits because of incompetence at the state level,” state Rep. Evelyn Terry, D-Forsyth, said during a news conference at the Enterprise Center at 1922 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The news conference was one of five being held simultaneously around the state by members of the state legislative Black Caucus. The other sites were Greensboro, Raleigh, Rocky Mount and Charlotte.
Terry was joined by state Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, and state Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth. Members of the state legislative Black Caucus held similar news conferences in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, all demanding Wos’ resignation.
The news conference comes one day after two N.C. House leaders — Rep. Beverly Earle of Mecklenburg County and Rep. Michael Wray of Halifax County — called for Wos to resign. Earle and Wray are the two ranking House Democratic members of the Legislative Oversight Committee for Health and Human Services.
At the news conference today, Parmon, Terry and Hanes touted a Dec. 11 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that threatens federal sanctions against the health department for continued delays in processing food stamps applications.
According to a copy of the letter provided at the news conference, more than 20,000 households “continue to experience significant delays with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications and recertifications.”
“Of these households, over 6,000 have been waiting for more than three months to receive benefits,” the letter states. “These delays are completely unacceptable and a serious failure on the part of North Carolina.”
The letter said the federal agency may suspend administrative payments to the state if the health department fails to demonstrate it has corrected the problems.
Wos and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have been criticized by legislators and advocates for several financial and technological issues. That includes struggling to get the NCTracks Medicaid payment-processing and NC FAST food-stamp application systems functioning properly; providing high-dollar state personal contracts to consultants with limited health-care qualifications, such as one who works for Wos’ husband at New Breed Logistics; and offering incomplete updates to the oversight committee.
Parmon is on the oversight committee and said the agency has consistently misled legislators on the extent of the problems. The recent letter, she said, proves that.
“This is not something that just happened with the Medicaid cards,” she said. “This has been happening continuously.”
Parmon said that members of the state legislative Black Caucus plan to formally ask today that Wos resign from her position.
McCrory, however, has defended Wos and said that Wos has had to deal with the results of massive mismanagement of the agency under previous Democratic administrations.
Ryan Tronovitch, McCrory’s deputy communications director, dismissed Thursday any call for Wos to resign, saying it was a political ploy since the statement from Wray and Earle was sent from a N.C. Democratic email address.
Claude Pope, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, deflected making comments on the resignation recommendation, instead placing the blame for the problems on the administrations of Gov. Mike Easley and Gov. Bev Perdue for “years of institutional incompetence” within DHHS.
Hanes said that he, Parmon and Terry represent some of the neediest and poorest constituents in the state.
“We’re asking people to have the courage to tell us what’s really going on,” he said. “We’re asking the governor to admit that his secretary has shown herself not to be up to the task of heading the agency … There are people out there hurting and we don’t need people exacerbating the problem.”