JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday named a close aide as interim director of Mississippi’s Medicaid program, even as Republicans consider changes to the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Bryant tapped Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Snyder to take the post temporarily. The move comes after Dr. David Dzielak, director for six years, announced his resignation.
Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said Medicaid will seek a permanent director and Snyder will serve until then. The agency provides health insurance for nearly one in four Mississippians, spending nearly a billion a year in state tax money and billions more in federal money.
State law requires the Medicaid director to a be a physician with administrative experience, someone with a graduate degree in medical administration, or someone with at least three years’ experience in managing or making policy for Medicaid. Chandler said Snyder has helped make policy for Medicaid since joining the governor’s office in 2014.
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“Drew has a firm grasp on the issues that affect Medicaid and the beneficiaries it serves,” Bryant said in a statement. “His intellect and demeanor make him the perfect choice to guide the agency during this period of transition. I am happy he has accepted this appointment.”
Snyder previously worked for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., focusing on pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Dzielak had faced questions about the award of managed care contracts, whether contractors are paying bills on time and aiding patients’ health, and the soundness of the governor’s plan to have the state Department of Human Services determine who’s eligible for Medicaid. Committee meetings in recent weeks have focused in part on health care provider complaints.
David Mosley, director of Navigant Healthcare, told the Clarion Ledger that Snyder’s appointment is a “breath of fresh air.” The state hired Navigant to conduct an assessment of Medicaid’s managed care program, and it found the insurance companies were not meeting health outcome goals.
“There hasn’t been a great deal of transparency in the last couple of years within the agency, and I think Drew will bring that forward,” Mosley said.
Rep. Becky Currie, a Brookhaven Republican and outspoken critic of Dzielak and managed care, called the change “great.”
“I’m actually thrilled about the news,” she said. “He’s very easy to talk to. I trust him. I’ve always had a good working relationship with him.”
Others, though, urged a quick search for someone familiar with the intricacies of Medicaid.
“I think Drew will do a good job as interim director, but we need to have a national search to find someone who is an expert on Medicaid,” said Sen. Hob Bryan, an Amory Democrat.