RALEIGH – After less than eight months on the job, the head of the state’s Medicaid program is leaving to take a job in the private sector out of state. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement Monday that Carol Steckel has accepted a position with WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, Florida. Steckel, who joined the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on January 22, submitted her resignation today as Director of the Division of Medical Assistance, effective October 11.
"In her time at the Department of Health and Human Services, Carol has made invaluable contributions to the state and the people we serve," said Secretary Aldona Wos. "She brought fresh ideas and deep knowledge and experience to the state's Medicaid program. This is an excellent private sector opportunity for Carol to return to the state where she grew up, and we will miss her greatly. We appreciate her commitment to a smooth transition as we progress towards creating a predictable and sustainable Medicaid system for the people of North Carolina.
Steckel was hired after making major changes in the $14 billion health care program for the poor in other states, such as Louisiana, including shifting much of the operation to private insurers as a way to better manage costs. Lawmakers were resistant to the idea.
Steckel is making a $210,000 a year. That’s the top salary set for the position, according to personnel records.
Steckel added: "It was a difficult decision to leave DHHS, but this is a great opportunity I can't turn down. Secretary Wos is a strong and dynamic leader not afraid to take on the toughest challenges confronting the Department of Health and Human Services. In just a short time together, we have made good progress on reforming the state's Medicaid program to control costs and improve care. I thank the Secretary for her leadership and am committed to making this a smooth transition."
The statement continued The Department of Health and Human Services will immediately begin the search for a new Director of the Division of Medical Assistance.
This is the latest chapter in a series of controversies at the department. They include the departure of state health director Dr. Laura Gerald, the firing of the head of the state dental department Dr. Rebecca King, and the departure of Kelly Crosbie, who was Steckel’s chief operations officer.
Democratic lawmakers and liberal interest groups have also been critical of high salaries and consulting arrangements made with campaign operatives and donors to Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign. In recent interviews, McCrory has raised concerns about the media coverage along with the funding sources and backgrounds of some of the groups raising the complaints.
Health and Human Services officials declined a request by North Carolina News Network for an interview to provide further elabration on the announcement and its ramifications, saying the only comment they would issue now would be the statement.