A key member of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services submitted her resignation Monday, stunning a department that has been under scrutiny in recent months.
Carol Steckel, the director of the Division of Medical Assistance, will leave Oct. 11. Steckel oversees Medicaid for the state, a key position in DHHS. Steckel has accepted a position with WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, DHHS said in a statement.
The state has struggled with cost overruns on Medicaid, which Gov. Pat McCrory said contributed to the state not being able to give employees raises.
And a new system to handle Medicaid payments called NC Tracks has been criticized by medical professionals for being far too slow and difficult to understand.
"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, in a statement, said, "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."
DHHS has been scrutinized in recent weeks for how much it is paying some key people:
Joe Hauk, who works for Wos' husband's company, has made more than $228,000 in eight months as an adviser.
Ricky Diaz is paid $85,000 as the department's communications director
Matthew McKillip is paid $87,500 as chief policy adviser.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Wos approved a $37,227 lump sum payment to her chief of staff, a lobbyist who left after just one month on the job.
McCrory donor Mardy Peal was hired for a key position at $95,000.