DHHS says human error led to Medicaid gaffe - WNCN: News, Weather

DHHS blames human error on Medicaid mistake

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that human error was the reason for incorrect Medicaid cards being mailed out, a mistake that DHHS admitted violated federal privacy laws.

DHHS said it has notified the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, of this HIPAA breach and will be providing formal letters of notification to affected individuals. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

DHHS admitted the mistake late Friday afternoon after news organizations began asking questions about the matter.

The error continued the problems at DHHS in the Pat McCrory administration, where Secretary Aldona Wos has faced tough criticism from legislators. DHHS struggled to launch programs that handled Medicaid enrollments and payments, paid high amounts for contractors with political ties and hired young staffers with little experience for high-level positions.

Acting Medicaid Director Sandra Terrell released a statement late Monday afternoon on the matter. In a statement, Terrell blamed the mistake on "human error in computer programming and the quality assurance process in printing the new Medicaid identification cards."

DHHS said the new cards were printed for children switched from N.C. Health Choice to Medicaid because of new eligibility rules and requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The program DHHS used utilized the incorrect name and address for the parent or responsible adult, DHHS said.

The incorrect card shows the child's name, Medicaid identification number, date of birth and primary care physician's name and physician's address. DHHS insisted that no Social Security numbers were released.

DHHS asked those who received the wrong cards to destroy them or turn them in at a county Department of Social Services.

DHHS said it will mail letters this week explaining the steps to get new Medicaid ID numbers and cards. The new cards should be out in about three weeks.

DHHS said children eligible for Medicaid can continue to access medical services by using their N.C. Health Choice ID number or card.

DHHS is reviewing why the mistake happened.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders Martin Nesbitt in the Senate and Larry Hall in the House called for new leadership at DHHS,.

"Throughout 2013, healthcare providers and patients across North Carolina suffered through one failure after another by Gov. [Pat] McCrory's Department of Health and Human Services.

"First Medicaid providers couldn't get paid, then struggling families couldn't receive food voucher," Nesbitt said. "Now, the new year has begun with the careless release of the sensitive personal information of nearly 50,000 children. Enough is enough. Gov. McCrory has proven why 'size of campaign contribution' should never be considered equivalent to 'scope of experience' when making political appointments. Now it's time for the Governor to get his administration in order and bring in someone at DHHS who can simply do the job."

Hall said, "There's no question that the challenges faced by DHHS are significant and complex. That is all the more reason that the agency requires competent leadership with meaningful professional experience."

DHHS said people concerned about the matter can contact the DHHS Customer Service Center at (800) 662-7030 during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

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