Dr. Aldona Wos, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, defended her department Tuesday morning in a meeting before a legislative oversight committee.
"We did not look back and we will not look back," Wos said. "We know in the department we are moving the state forward."
Wos told legislators that her staff has been in crisis mode to address the Medicaid card mistake and ongoing issues with a pair of problematic computer systems. The department mailed 49,000 Medicaid cards to the wrong addresses and a food stamp backlog has caused federal regulators to threaten cutting off funds.
Addressing the committee, Wos said, "I deeply apologize for the impact this has caused to the citizens of the state."
"There were several failures that unfolded in this incident and they disappointed me and disappointed us," Wos said.
"We have confirmed there was human error in programming, along with a failure in quality assurance. The incorrect printing was not identified before the mailing."
Wos said it was "unacceptable this issue was not elevated to my office and senior leadership as soon as the problem was identified."
Wos has been taking criticism for mistakes by her department in recent months but still has the support of her boss, Gov. Pat McCrory. Democrats in the legislature are calling on McCrory to replace her, but Republican committee members say stability is needed in leadership at the agency.
Wos says many of her agency's woes are a result of decisions made by past administrations and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Wos also defended her agency in the beginning, though. She noted that DHHS has had multiple secretaries in recent years, a suggestion that her administration was having to unravel past problems. She also said some of the DHHS problems stemmed from difficulties involved with the federal government's rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's flagship program.
She admitted that DHHS "is struggling" but also said, "It's a fact that the federal government is also struggling."
Asked about a timeline for when the problems when NCFast will be resolved, Wos said that "our regulations change so frequently" that it is hard for her to say exactly when everything will be done.
"So for us to give you a time line, there is no start and finish," she said. "Healthcare and IT [Internet technology] are something that are not stagnant. It's constantly changing.
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