Former DHHS head reflects on current controversies

Former DHHS head reflects on current controversies

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The man who ran North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services for three years under Gov. Beverly Perdue said he likely would have handled some recent decisions differently than the current administration, but steers clear of most criticism.

Lanier Cansler served as DHHS secretary from 2009 until 2012.  He said controversy over some big salary increases for a group of former campaign staffers for Gov. Pat McCrory might have been handled better with improved public relations. 

State lawmakers grilled DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos about the raises during a recent oversight hearing.

"Politics are always going to be there and part of the goal is to keep it as nonpolitical as you can," Lanier said.

The republican worked under the democratic Perdue.

"People are always going to raise questions, so the issue, as you just raised, is could that have been handled better from a public relations standpoint?  I think maybe it could, but again, I'm not in the driver's seat," he said.

Cansler also addressed the issues related to the botched launch of the new Medicaid billing system called NC Tracks.  It's a program he helped plan.

"Building that system was like building an airplane while it was in the air," he said.

Major healthcare changes under the federal Affordable Care Act went into effect during the planning process.  Cansler said the program was supposed to launch alongside the old one, until the kinks were worked out.  That didn't happen, some have said due to cost concerns.  An audit released right before the launch earlier this summer seemed to show it was not ready.

"The auditor said some of the things were going to happen," Cansler said.

Cansler now runs a consulting company in Raleigh and he steers clear of most criticism of the current administration, knowing the challenges of the job.

"Do I agree with everything?  I'm sure she didn't agree with everything that I had to do or any other secretaries had to do," he said, "but it's her responsibility to try and manage the agency and meet the needs of North Carolina and I believe she's trying to do that."

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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