RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's administration moved quickly Thursday to name a Louisiana health official to lead the state's huge Medicaid program.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos announced Carol Steckel, director of the Center for Health Care Innovation with the Louisiana state health and hospitals department, is the new director of the Division of Medical Assistance. She's replacing Mike Watson, who retired last week as Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration ended, HHS said.
Medicaid in North Carolina insures 1.8 million people — most of them poor children, older adults and the disabled — and spends $12 billion in state and federal funds annually.
"I am so pleased that she will be bringing her energy, enthusiasm, and considerable talent to the department as we strive to become more efficient, more effective and more accountable to our consumers," Wos said in a news release.
Steckel, previously Alabama's Medicaid agency commissioner, had been Louisiana's lead official for responding to the Affordable Care Act. North Carolina and other states are deciding how to comply with the federal health care overhaul related to health care exchanges and expanding Medicaid coverage to more uninsured.
Louisiana chose not to create its own health insurance market — leaving it to the federal government — and Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he won't let his state expand Medicaid coverage.
Perdue said in November that North Carolina would run a health care exchange jointly with the federal government, but the hybrid system can be changed later. McCrory has been skeptical about the Medicaid enrollment expansion, which would be paid for mostly with federal funds.
The HHS news release said Steckel has experience with overhauling information technology services. The state Medicaid office is trying to bring a new billing system online this summer.
The department says Steckel begins Jan. 22 and will make $210,000. Watson made $160,000 when he began the job last June to succeed dismissed director Dr. Craigan Gray, whose salary was $270,000.