RALEIGH – Gov. Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that Rick Brajer would replace outgoing N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos. Brajer comes from private industry, leading healthcare firms as CEO of ProNerve, Inc and president and CEO of LipoScience, Inc. He said that discussions about taking the position began about two months ago. He left his post at ProNerve in January.
“I think my corporate background is an attribute. I’ve led very complex healthcare companies for 22 years,” he said. “I look forward to continuing the progress at DHHS that Secretary Wos started in her tenure.”
Wos took the helm of the department in 2013 and led it through organizational improvements after years of budget overruns and reports of slow provider reimbursements. She also took a lot of the arrows for problems there. The announcement of a new DHHS secretary comes as the department released news that the Medicaid program will finish with a $130 million cash surplus. The system, which provides medical services for low-income citizens across the state, is currently under the legislative microscope for reform to better rein in costs and boost efficiency and patient care.
“Today we are proud to report that the Medicaid budget is in much better shape. We have a surplus that no one would have anticipated a short year ago,” said McCrory. “We have a lot to thank Dr. Wos for: Medicaid realignment, improved cost forecasting, and she’s built strong relationships with doctors.”
McCrory teared up and hugged the outgoing secretary as he presented her with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor for civil service. Wos thanked the governor and her team at DHHS for their commitment to the state.
“To all the employees, please continue using your creativity to solve the complex problems of this department. Do not give up, you have the ability to do great things,” said Wos.
Senior DHHS staff and legislators were on hand for the ceremony, including Rep. Marilyn Avila and Rep. Donny Lambeth, who sit on the Joint Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services. After the announcements, the group went behind closed doors at the executive mansion for what is sure to be a marathon of meetings between lawmakers, McCrory, Wos and Bejer.
“I am motivated as all get-out for this job,” Brajer told the governor in this morning’s press conference. “I’m motivated for the leadership challenge, and I am motivated in knowing that we will be demonstrating God’s love in action as we help the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Brajer has a chemical engineering degree from Purdue and an MBA from Stanford. Very active in public service, Brajer is a former chairman of the board of Habitat for Humanity in Wake County and a board member of Communities in Schools of Wake County. Brajer says he’s already scheduled to meet with legislators tomorrow morning at the General Assembly, where many are working in conference on a final budget and Medicaid reform proposal.