Last week over on NC Spin Tom Campbell published a glowing interview with Perdue Cabinet Secretary Lanier Cansler – but even before the ink dried on the page the yarn Cansler spun Campbell was coming undone.
You might think before the Governor and Secretary Cansler put someone in charge of caring for the state’s mental patients they might do some kind of background check – but you’d be wrong.
Last Tuesday Governor Perdue announced she had put John Tote in charge of the state’s mental care programs – to straighten out the problems. Wednesday the newspapers – who apparently do background checks – reported the revenue collectors have $1.5 million in tax liens against Tote’s last enterprise; by Friday, Tote’s nomination was on hold; today he ‘voluntarily’ withdrew.
Flash back one year: You may remember how, in the middle of the budget crisis, when the Governor was saying the state was broke, Secretary Cansler – out of the clear blue sky – gave the order to his aides to buy $38,000 in crab pots to set a handicapped man up in the fishing business. Cansler didn’t do a background check then either, and, now, well, it turns out in addition to his handicap the man had an addiction to crack cocaine which, after he got the $38,000 in crab pots, promptly put him out of the crabbing business. It happened this way: He put out the pots, forgot them, left them, and the poor captured crab’s died of starvation. The only economic benefit anyone seems to have derived from this exercise in government efficiency is other fishermen finding the abandoned traps then selling them at the local flea market.
Another chicken’s come home to roost too, and this isn’t exactly a background check problem but it is – sort of. Last year, Secretary Cansler told legislators he was absolutely certain 45% of the patients in the Medicaid Home Care program were chiselers who didn’t need care.
Legislators asked, Alright, how much can we save if we stop paying for their care? Cansler said: $40 million. And legislators said: What are you waiting for – get them off the program.
For the next nine months Cansler strained mightily to find 15,000 gold bricking patients to cut but no matter how he tried and shuffled the cards at the end of the day his own computer programs and analysis could only find 1,000 patients who weren’t eligible for care.
Worse, almost a year after legislators cut the Home Care budget $40 million, Cansler hadn’t even figured out how to get the patients everyone said weren’t eligible off the program.
Result: Cansler had a $40 million hole in his budget.
Cansler’s solution is a study in government and politics and proof he doesn’t think legislators have a lick of sense: He told the General Assembly the cheating was even worse than he thought last year – that 85% of the patients are chiselers. And it worked. He created so much outrage down in the General Assembly no one even thought to ask, Wait a minute. Didn’t you tell us last year 45% were cheats? If that was true – and they’re really not qualified for care – why are they still in the program? We gave you the authority to drop them.
Governor Perdue’s Solution (and maybe this is why she’s Governor and not Cansler) was even simpler: She announced she’s going to cancel the program completely. Which, in a way, is brilliant. Because if the state has a Home Care program by federal law it has to provide care to patients who need it. But if the program vanishes the state is off the hook. It doesn’t have to worry about federal laws. Or pesky questions from legislators.
So, that’s state government Perdue style: The mental health system’s broke, so she hires a man who’s last organization appears bankrupt; Cansler declares 15,000 patients are cheats, finds out he was wrong but the governor solves the problem by closing down the whole program so no one will ask pesky questions; and, no one, anywhere, in state government has breathed one word about what happened to $38,000 in crab pots.