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NC Medicaid Spending Was In The Black For The First Time In Five Years

Medicaid illustration: A Caduceus symbol and a dollar sign
Neff Conner

North Carolina health officials say the state Medicaid program has a positive cash balance for the first time in years.

For years, the state health insurance for people who are poor or disabled has cost tax payers more than expected. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

But that wasn't the case last year. Aldona Wos, the state secretary for Health and Human Services, says the Medicaid budget was in the black.

"We're ecstatic," she says. "This is the first time in five years that the division of medical assistance has not asked for hundreds of millions of dollars extra. We are so proud of that."

Medicaid was a $13 billion program this past year. The program budget had $64 million remaining this past fiscal year, though that doesn't account for possibly backlogged claims or outstanding enrollment applications. Even though lawmakers think the positive figure is promising, they say the Medicaid program still needs major revamping.

Wos argued against a proposal to separate Medicaid into its own agency, which some senators have suggested. She says Medicaid is a collaboration between social services, behavioral health and other areas.  

"If you were to simply take out a section of the department and move it somewhere else, you would not be able to accomplish anything," Wos told a legislative panel on Tuesday. "You would have to re-structure and re-organize and hire an entire new infrastructure."

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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