Ohio's Medicaid Chief Resigns as Trump Eyes Obamacare Changes

by | November 15, 2016 AT 11:50 AM

By Catherine Candisky

State Medicaid Chief John McCarthy, who oversaw Gov. John Kasich's overhaul and expansion of the health-insurance program covering nearly 3 million poor and disabled Ohioans, is resigning.

The announcement comes less than a week after the victory of President-elect Donald Trump raised uncertainty about the future of the tax-funded Medicaid program, including the 2014 expansion of eligibility that added about 650,000 low-income adults on to the rolls in Ohio.

Kasich has named former state Rep. Barbara Sears, of Sylvania, to replace McCarthy. Sears resigned from the House in June to work in the governor's Office of Health Transformation, which oversees the state's health-care programs. While in the House, Sears was the most outspoken Republican supporter of Medicaid expansion as Kasich pushed to implement it.

She'll start in her new post when McCarthy steps down sometime in December for "opportunities in the private sector."

McCarthy has served as director of Medicaid since the beginning of Kasich's administration in 2011. He led its restructure to an independent cabinet agency, expanded use of managed care and home and community-based services, and led Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Kasich called McCarthy "an invaluable member of my cabinet and a key driver behind our efforts to modernize Ohio's Medicaid program."

McCarthy's leadership, he said, helped ensure the most vulnerable Ohioans are better served and put the Medicaid program on strong financial footing.

"He is an outstanding thinker, leader and professional whose work has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and made our state better," Kasich said.

Under McCarthy's leadership, the Ohio Department of Medicaid has saved Ohio taxpayers more than $3 billion and the annual growth rate of the program has dropped to 3.3 percent -- down from nearly 9 percent growth over the three years prior to Kasich assuming office.

McCarthy previously served as medicaid director for the District of Columbia, and was a private-sector consultant working with many states to help reform Medicaid programs through home- and community-based waiver programs, new coverage initiatives, and rate setting.

Kasich said Sears brings the needed expertise and leadership to the job.

"She has consistently been someone who has shared my vision for health care and worked closely with our team to achieve it. She knows the health care and insurance spaces very well and has outstanding relationships with the General Assembly," Kasich said.

While a legislator, Sears served as majority floor leader and chairwoman of both the House Insurance Committee and Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee.

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)