DHHS

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has said it might remove some of its health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.
Jed Record / Flickr Creative Commons

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Brad Wilson recently told the News and Observer that the company might have to consider pulling some of its health insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Wilson cited financial losses of more than $100 million in the first year of ACA coverage.

A picture of a young man with his head in his hands.
Sander van der Wel / Wikipedia

More adults are coming under the legal authority of guardians. Many adults who are declared incompetent by a court have a relative who takes over guardianship. But for those who don't, the state takes over that role.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in an e-mail that there were about 3,000 adults with public guardians in 2007. That number is expected to double by about 2017.

A picture of a gavel on a document.
Brian Turner / Flickr Creative Commons

Employees at the state Department of Health and Human Services received subpoenas in a federal investigation, according to a report by the News and Observer. 

Federal prosecutors are investigating expensive contracts for high-ranking DHHS employees and a Medicaid consulting firm. The subpoenas request information for more than 30 employees, including the employment contract for former DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. 

Rick Brajer
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday Aldona Wos is resigning from her position as the secretary of the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

An image of the sun
Dominik Hundhammer / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_Goa_Fort_Chapora_Chapora_River.jpg

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for 17 counties in the eastern and southeastern part of the state today. The heat index could reach 105 degrees in the Sand Hills by early this evening.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services warns that these high temperatures put people—especially the elderly, the very young, and those on specific medications—at risk for heat stroke.

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

North Carolina lawmakers got the first granular look at the state’s Medicaid program in 20 years, showing the program’s improving financial condition but continuing major debts to medical providers.

The audit found the Medicaid fund balance was $350 million in the red for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014—almost $59 million better than a year earlier.
 

flu shot
samantha celera, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Thirty people died from the flu last week in North Carolina - about three times more than died the previous week. 

"And those numbers are going to continue to rise. Because we always see those numbers lag behind our flu activity numbers by a few weeks," said Dr. Zack Moore, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Moore says people should use basic prevention methods like staying home from work when sick and staying away from people who are ill. He points out that vaccination is still an option.

A picture of colorized Ebola particles.
Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine / Wikipedia

UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt and leaders at UNC Health Care are prohibiting student travel to Ebola-stricken nations.  University faculty and staff must have approval before traveling to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.

New York and New Jersey are requiring people returning from Ebola-affected areas of Africa to stay in quarantine for three weeks. That's the incubation period for the disease. 

But North Carolina does not have such a mandate.

This week, Health Secretary Aldona Wos outlined the state's protocols for people returning from West Africa.

A picture of colorized Ebola particles.
Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine / Wikipedia

North Carolina health and safety officials are building a united front to prepare against the Ebola virus.

State Health and Human Services secretary Aldona Wos announced at a press conference yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control has named North Carolina's State Laboratory of Public Health to be a regional hub to test potential Ebola specimens.

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph.
NIH/NIAID via Flickr/Creative Commons

State government leaders say North Carolina is well on the way to being prepared if an Ebola case is diagnosed within our borders.  A state epidemiologist says steps to isolate a contagious and potentially deadly case can be put in place without an emergency order from the governor.   Those actions can include quarantines of people and buildings.  

State DHHS secretary Aldona Wos says the appearance of the disease in this country is prompting many states to respond.

Ebola Sign
Leoneda Inge

The first diagnosed Ebola case in the United States and the first death, has raised awareness of the deadly disease from California to the Carolinas.

Hospitals and health professionals are especially on alert.  The state Department of Health and Human Services has been working closely with health care providers since the summer, to prepare for the possibility of an Ebola patient being diagnosed here.

One addict talked about scoring methadone regularly at a Bible study.
Savio Sebastian / Flickr/Creative Commons

This is the third in a three-part series about the problem of heroin in North Carolina.  (Parts one and two are below.)

Heroin in NC Part Three: Bible Study

North Carolina is not immune to the nation's growing heroin problem. The number of overdose deaths in the state has quadrupled in just a few years. More people are seeking treatment.  In our final installment of the series, Jeff Tiberii reports on efforts to re-open a shuttered clinic in High Point.

Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh
Dave DeWitt

The state has released new documents about negotiations to sell the Dorothea Dix Hospital Campus to Raleigh. While an agreement looks close the two parties still haven't settled all the terms.

The state and the city both agree that $52 million is a fair price for the 308-acre property.

The problem is that Raleigh wants to buy the land outright, and build a destination park there. But the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services campus is on the property, and the state doesn't plan to move it.

First responders in Guilford County have administered hundreds of doses of Naloxone, or NARCAN, this year. Heroin overdoses and deaths are on the rise.
Jeff Tiberii

A new government study says deaths from heroin overdose in the United States doubled between 2010 and 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from 28 states. That upward trend is also taking place in North Carolina, where heroin deaths climbed from 38 to 183 between 2010 and 2013; representing an increase of 480%.  In response, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 20 last year.

A map of North Carolina Infant Mortality Rates 2009-2013
NCDHHS

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that infant mortality is at its lowest level in state history.

For the past two years, infant mortality rates had risen -- going from 7.0 per 1000 live births in 2010 to 7.4 in 2012. But last year, the numbers shot back down, returning to 2010 levels, the lowest in history.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos
Jessica Jones

North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services spoke before a legislative committee Wednesday to explain organizational changes made in one of her divisions.

Secretary Aldona Wos explained the changes will help streamline the Division of Medical Assistance, which administers the state's Medicaid program. She also told legislators that a formerly enormous backlog in the IT system used to process Medicaid applications- called NC FAST- has been reduced by 81 percent. The Secretary says she expects the system to be caught up by the end of October.

A picture of colorized Ebola particles.
Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine / Wikipedia

North Carolina health officials are following the spread of the Ebola virus in Western Africa. It was announced this week that two aid workers from North Carolina-based relief organizations have tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Kent Brantley of Samaritan's Purse and Nancy Writebol of Service in Mission were both working to combat the outbreak at a hospital in Liberia when they were infected.

Vaccine, shot,
Wake Med

State health officials have approved a measure that would require rising 7th graders to receive the meningitis vaccine.

One more administrative step is required before the vaccination would become mandatory. The vaccine is for meningitis and other meningococcal diseases. Bacterial meningitis is most common in people between the ages of 15 and 21, but only about half of thi state's teenagers currently receive the vaccination.
 

NC Department of Health and Human Services logo
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services say they have met a federal deadline as of yesterday to clear its backlog of food stamp applications. Earlier this year, the US Department of Agriculture threatened to pull 88 million dollars in funding if deadlines were not met.

Sherri Bradsher is the deputy secretary for human services at DHHS. She says the number of households that still need food stamps fall within the USDA's parameters of meeting the deadline.

Doctors at Duke Hospital.
Duke Medecine

The NC Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its plan on Monday to reform the state's Medicaid system. While it had already signaled a shift from Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) months ago, the new plan partially outlines how the state would like to achieve that shift.

A child builds a lego tower in a doctor's waiting room.
kellyhogaboom via Flickr/Creative Commons

Governor Pat McCrory’s administration has presented a new plan to the public to overhaul the state’s Medicaid system.

This plan would coordinate services through what are called accountable care organizations, rather than big managed care companies. State health officials had previously leaned toward a managed care model.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos says the accountable care model is what hospitals and health providers want.

NC Department of Health and Human Services logo
NC Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services’ failure to notify lawmakers about a Medicaid waiver earlier this year could cost the state at least ten million dollars.

Back in August, North Carolina’s former Medicaid director, Carol Steckel, formally requested a three-month waiver from the federal government to postpone the new process for renewing coverage for Medicaid patients.

Secretary Aldona Wos
Jessica Jones

State health officials say they have cleared an enormous backlog of food stamp applications that could have caused North Carolina to lose 80 million dollars’ worth of federal funding. The head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Aldona Wos spoke before lawmakers in a committee meeting earlier today.

"We, the state of North Carolina, believe that we have successfully achieved our first milestone with the USDA in reference to delay in the recertification of our applications," said Wos.

NC Department of Health and Human Services logo
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services say they've made great strides in reducing a backlog of food stamp recipients who weren't receiving their benefits. The USDA had issued the state a warning that unless it reduced the backlog of claims before a Monday deadline, North Carolina could lose 88 million dollars' worth of funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Aldona Vos, DHHS
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

North Carolina’s Secretary of Health and Human Services apologized to state lawmakers in a lengthy committee meeting yesterday in Raleigh.

Secretary Aldona Wos said her office is investigating the root cause of a privacy breach that resulted in about 49,000 Medicaid cards being sent to the wrong households. And she said officials are looking into an apparent backlog of around 30 thousand needy families who qualify for food stamps.
 

In yesterday’s hearing at the legislature, Wos appeared perfectly composed but contrite before state lawmakers:

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