And Secretary Mandy Cohen has had quite enough:
Cohen has spent a lot of time at the legislative building in Raleigh this week, working the halls and talking to budget writers about her qualms with the budget. She’s also been making media appearances to reiterate her priorities and concerns.
Cohen also sharply criticized the legislature for cutting out $42 million in recurring administrative funds over the coming two years. Additionally, she said that as the budget stands right now, the Medicaid budget is $63 million short. “It’s dramatic. It’s irresponsible,” she said. “It’s not like we’re trying to manage some really trying times. No one has given me an answer in this building about why are we doing this cut? We’re not in a recession. Why are they doing it this year… other than to play games?” Cohen said.
There are a couple of obvious reasons, and they both have to do with Medicaid Expansion. Cohen has been pushing them hard for it, and has the data to back up her arguments. That makes her the "enemy" in the eyes of irresponsible and capricious Republicans, so whatever levers they can pull to exert pressure on her are being pulled with a vengeance. But there's also something else: Using the excuse of a procedure change (switching to managed care), they're cutting her staff, which will make it much more difficult to handle Medicaid Expansion if it did get approved. And that will become one more reason for them to not approve it. Create a crisis, and then lament said crisis. Standard operating procedure. Dr. Cohen also has a completely unnecessary and disruptive move looming:
Currently, DHHS is housed on the old Dorothea Dix campus in downtown Raleigh, and the city is in the process of converting the former psychiatric hospital grounds into a park. The terms of sale require DHHS to vacate their offices on the campus within the coming decade.
However, Cohen said that in the two and a half years she’s been secretary, no one has ever talked to her about moving DHHS out of Wake County to Granville County. Nonetheless, that move was present when the Senate first revealed its budget in May and remained in the compromise budget voted on this week.
But Cohen said pushing thousands of workers into a rural county would greatly impact the department’s ability to recruit experts and the way her staff conducts business with other departments.
“We collaborate with commerce, with transportation, with environmental quality, with the General Assembly, where my staff is down here all the time helping the General Assembly understand our complex programs,” Cohen said. “Well, how are we going to do that if we’re two hours away?”
Lambeth and others told NC Health News that the move to Granville was a likely negotiating point, designed to put pressure on DHHS as the budget conversations continue.
Bolding mine, because that is also known as coercion, or "blackmail" if you want straight talk. That's not how you do the people's business, especially when you're dealing with a Department that is responsible for the health & well-being of said people. I shouldn't have to say that, because it's obvious. But when the moral compass of the majority party in the Legislature is so skewed, stating or reiterating the obvious becomes common practice.