Local/State

Mistaken North Carolina Medicaid card mailing blamed on human error

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Acting Medicaid Director Sandra Terrell said Monday that human error led to the Medicaid cards of nearly 50,000 North Carolina children being incorrectly sent to the wrong addresses.

DHHS admitted the mistake in a news release sent out Friday evening. Information on the cards included the child's name, Medicaid identification number, date of birth, and primary care physician's name and address. However, no Social Security numbers were released.

Gov. Pat McCrory was slow to place blame Monday, but DHHS said a computer program written to pull names and mailing addresses from a database didn't work properly. Now, they are taking steps to figure out exactly what went wrong.

"There was an operational breakdown," said McCrory.

McCrory didn't say where that breakdown happened, but when pressed, he fell back on a defense he's used after many DHHS breakdowns this year -- the problems started before he took office.

"We continue to have issues regarding operations, not only in DHHS, but in other departments that have been plaguing the state for well over a decade," said McCrory.

The new cards were required under a change in the Affordable Care Act. It's something the governor pointed out more than once Monday.

"This error was made by DHHS as they tried to implement changes required by the federal government as part of Obamacare," said McCrory.

Critics pounced on the governor's response.

"The fact the state bumbled and fumbled mailing the cards has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act," said Chris Fitzsimon, with NC Policy Watch.

DHHS has now outlined steps it's taking to fix the problem:

  • Later this week, they will send out a letter explaining what happened.
  • In late January, they will mail out new cards and new numbers.
  • They've asked for an external review by the Office of Information Technology Services.
  • They are conducting an internal personnel investigation.

Families who got an incorrect card should immediately destroy it by shredding or cutting it into small pieces. Cards can also be turned in to county department of social services. A directory of the county social services offices can be found here: http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/local/.

DHHS will mail a letter this week to affected families that explains the steps it's taking to issue new Medicaid ID numbers and cards. That letter will also explain what to do until the new Medicaid card is received. Until the new cards arrive, families can continue using their old NC Health Choice ID number or card.

DHHS acknowledged Monday that the mailings violated the federal HIPAA law that protects the private medical information of individuals. It 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.

If affected individuals are concerned about credit fraud, they may contact any credit bureaus to ask that a fraud alert be placed on their account. Attorney General Roy Cooper's office also issued information on how to get protection from fraud. Click here for more.

Anyone who needs more information can call the DHHS Customer Service Center at (800) 662-7030 during normal business hours on Monday-Friday.

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north carolina news, pat mccrory, local/state, jon camp
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