Since the earliest weeks of 2020, we’ve seen the federal government take a backseat to the states in directing America’s COVID-19 response. Though we could devote an entire episode to the frailties of this laissez-faire federalism, instead I want to help us dissect where we stand at the state level, by talking with one of the most robust state leaders during this crisis: North Carolina’s Secretary of Health & Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen. Secretary Cohen held several leadership roles in the Obama administration before moving to North Carolina in 2017. Since then, she and her team have been working hard to transform the state’s health system into one that integrates and pays for not only medical care, but also its underlying drivers: from housing to food security to transportation to domestic safety. This vision for whole-person health has propelled a cascade of new programs that establish North Carolina, as Politico mused last year, quite possibly as “the most innovative health care state in America.” And the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than distract from this mission, has only underlined its urgency. On today’s episode, Secretary Cohen and I discuss some of these new programs. We review her personal story and journey to North Carolina, and consider how her experience coordinating Affordable Care Act implementation has informed her approach to crisis management today. We talk about the void in federal leadership on COVID-19, and the avenues by which states are striving to learn from and collaborate with one another instead. And we explore what the next few months might look like, should the coronavirus continue to spread.
For more on North Carolina’s health and human services work, check out:
- the Department of Health & Human Services’s website
- this New York Times’s feature, “Inside North Carolina’s Big Effort to Transform Health Care”
- this Politico profile, “Why North Carolina might be the most innovative health care state in America”
And for more on the Civic Rx podcast, visit www.civic-rx.org.