DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos (right, green) and Medicaid head Carol Steckel (left, black) speak to health care providers and community members at Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville Friday.
DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos (right, green) and Medicaid head Carol Steckel (left, black) speak to health care providers and community members at Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville Friday.

By Rose Hoban

Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos told an audience in Reidsville today that the decision not to expand the state’s Medicaid program came from state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

Her comments came during a community forum held at Annie Penn Hospital during a question-and-answer period with the audience of 70 to 80 hospital personnel, community members and medical professionals.

Dr. Steve Luking and his brother, both family practitioners, have been practicing in Reidsville for several decades.
Dr. Steve Luking and his brother, both family practitioners, have been practicing in Reidsville for several decades. Credit: Rose Hoban

Steve Luking, a local family practitioner in Reidsville, rose to express his mistrust of the Medicaid reform plan, Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina, that Wos has been traveling the state to present to community groups.

Luking talked at length about the numerous Medicaid and uninsured patients in his practice who he felt he could not care for adequately under the current system. He then expressed his frustration with the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid, as permitted under the president’s Affordable Care Act.

“There will be people in this county who will die because of the decision that your boss made and that your silence, Dr. Wos, agreed with,” said Luking, who estimated that some 7,000 residents of Rockingham County would have received coverage under the expansion.

“Now I’m just supposed to trust you that the 67 percent of kids in my practice on Medicaid are going to get good care by this [Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina]?” Luking asked.

“In reference to your roundabout way of commenting about Medicaid expansion … in North Carolina, based on our constitution, the issue of Medicaid expansion or not, actually, was the commissioner of insurance’s,” Wos said. “Just so that you all know that and are aware of that.”

Wos left quickly after the forum wrapped up.

No to Medicaid expansion

The comment was met with incredulity at the Department of Insurance. According to Marni Schribman, a spokeswoman for the department, Goodwin had been directing his department to prepare for expansion of the Medicaid program for months.

But that process was derailed this winter when both houses of the General Assembly passed legislation to reject the Medicaid expansion. In the Senate, the bill was filed on the first day of the session. The House followed soon after.

During hearings on the legislation, Department of Insurance officials urged expansion.

During the Senate debate, Gov. Pat McCrory sent a letter to senators asking them to slow down the process, but legislators ignored the governor and passed the bill out of both houses by the end of February.

McCrory, who has repeatedly called North Carolina’s Medicaid system “broken,” signed the bill into law on March 6.

“Before considering Medicaid expansion, we must reform the current system to make sure people currently enrolled receive the services they need and more taxpayer dollars are not put at risk,” McCrory said in a prepared statement when he signed the bill into law.

According to Schribman, the Department of Insurance was also prepping to establish health insurance exchanges in partnership with the federal Department of Health and Human Services. With the rejection of the expansion and the exchanges, the department was compelled to decline a $72 million federal grant to help build them. Instead, the General Assembly had to appropriate dollars to cover part of the costs of creating a computer system that will be used to determine Medicaid eligibility.

“Whether or not to expand Medicaid was never within our authority,” Schribman said.


On Saturday afternoon, Insurance Commissioner Goodwin called on DHHS Secretary Wos to apologize for her remarks.

“I am offended and truly disappointed that Secretary Wos decided to incorrectly accuse me of being the cause for the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion,” Goodwin said in a prepared statement sent to media. “That decision was not within my constitutional authority. I trust that the Secretary will swiftly issue a correction and apologize for her statement.”

According to the News & Observer, DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said Wos’ comments were taken out of context.

“The Secretary was talking broadly about the Insurance Commissioner’s oversight authority over the health care insurance industry in North Carolina,” Diaz said, as reported on the N&O‘s Under the Dome blog.

In the interest of full transparency and allowing readers to decide, we are posting a recorded excerpt from the hearing below (approx 3 mins.). The exchange starts in the middle of Dr. Luking’s comments and runs through Secretary Wos’ response until just after her comments quoted above.


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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...

15 replies on “Updated: Wos Says Decision to Not Expand Medicaid Was Goodwin’s Call”

  1. No expansion is the correct answer… time to force able bodied people off the dole who should not be on it to begin with.

    1. Practically no one gets Medicaid because they are “on the dole.” Most of them work one or two or three part-time jobs with NO benefits (Walmart, Target, etc.). Get your facts straight.

      1. I have to agree with bobcat. I have worked for most of my adult life (now age 29). I was a prison officer for almost 5 years for NC. I work hard now, and my job offers me no benefits. I have been uninsured for many years. Think about this…other countries have a similar medical plan in place for its people. They get sick they go to the doctor they go back to work. Here people get sick and stay home for days trying to feel better or, go in sick and get other people sick. Also, the reason that insurance costs so much now is because of the people that went to the see someone and couldn’t pay. However, what do you think would happen if everyone paid their bills? The costs would go down because you aren’t paying for the 20 people that came in before you without insurance. We have become so greedy that we cant even save our own people. Here’s an idea…think if the people in the U.S. lived longer and could work longer how much that would help our economy in the long haul. I guess some people don’t like to use their brains and just believe what they read on Facebook.

  2. I encourage everyone to listen to the audio. Dr. Wos sounded extremely antagonistic and condescending, which we should all find disturbing in a public servant.

  3. Wos was one of Gov Pat’s biggest contributors. She does not know what she is doing and, furthermore, she is constantly angry and condescending. Pay to play.

  4. How on earth did Dr. Wos say that her blaming Commissioner Goodwin was taken out of context? It is very clear that was exactly what she said. Outrageous. She must not have known she was being recorded.

    This needs to be picked up by some general news sites.

  5. Didn’t she agree to $1.00/year salary when she accepted this position from the Gov.? I guess you get what you pay for.

  6. It is now clear that Woss is out of her leage and practicing outside of her skill level.

  7. Dr. Steve tells it like it is. He is the best doctor I’ve ever had. “Mis-managed” care and politicians who serve special interests are ruining healthcare in the US. How long will dedicated medical professionals be able to put up with a broken and inhumane system?

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