TOPEKA — The top official in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Thursday the intention to leave the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback in January.
KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier, who took over the state health agency in 2014, becomes the second Brownback Cabinet officer to disclose in November plans to depart. The secretary at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, Phyllis Gilmore, said several weeks ago her final day on the job would be today.
In June, Brownback’s secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce was forced to resign. Former Secretary Antonio Soave, who filed to run for Congress before dropping that bid, was hit by allegations of conflict of interest in his work for the state.
Mosier’s duties at KDHE included a broad portfolio of state government health services, but she received the most attention in Kansas for her administration of Medicaid. The $3 billion KanCare program was outsourced to three for-profit insurance companies in 2013, triggering years of conflict between supporters and critics of the reform with Mosier often in the political crossfire.
Before assuming the role as KDHE secretary, Mosier was the state’s Medicaid director from 2012 to 2014. Residents in Manhattan had elected her to a seat in the Kansas House during 2010. She is an ophthalmologist.
Mosier said it had been a privilege to serve Kansans and offered gratitude to Brownback for the opportunity to work with “an amazing team of passionate, dedicated professionals.”
“Dr. Mosier has worked effectively for Kansas’ most vulnerable citizens,” Brownback said. “Under her leadership, Kansas has improved health and life outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries through KanCare.”
Brownback was nominated in the summer as international ambassador for religious freedom by President Donald Trump, but the U.S. Senate has not taken final action on his appointment.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is expected to select a replacement for Mosier. That would follow Brownback’s decision to defer on Cabinet nominations to Colyer, who is seeking the 2018 Republican nomination for governor. Last week, Colyer announced the new KDADS secretary.
Colyer has taken over several key responsibilities as Brownback prepares to resign from the office of governor.
The KanCare program has come under criticism for backlogged applications, limited oversight and scant provider networks. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid denied a one-year extension of the program early this year, but approved it after the agency made changes.
KDHE and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services have worked on a plan to renew KanCare for another five years and make improvements to the program’s processes. The departments proposed requiring some Medicaid beneficiaries to work, a controversial addition to the program.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said departure of Mosier, Gilmore and Soave reflected the end of the Brownback era.
“Seems like everybody is abandoning the ship before it completely sinks,” Hensley said.
The stakes of Colyer’s decision at KDHE cannot be underestimated, said House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat seeking the party’s nomination for governor.
“Let’s hope it leads to greater safety and care for our most vulnerable children and families and greater transparency,” Ward said.