The Kansas attorney general nominated a Lawrence lawyer to serve as inspector general of the state’s Medicaid program, a position that had been left vacant by the Brownback administration.

The 2017 Legislature voted to place responsibility for the appointment with Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office because of frustration with Gov. Sam Brownback’s loss of interest in dedicating a person to provide oversight of the privatized system known as KanCare.

On Thursday, Schmidt recommended the Kansas Senate confirm attorney Sarah Fertig as inspector general. If confirmed, she would start from scratch. The state government has no Medicaid inspector general staff or office.

“I have worked with Sarah for several years, and I believe she will be a solid, professional leader who can re-establish the office of inspector general as a helpful contributor to discussions about program operations and management,” Schmidt said.

KanCare, outsourced to three for-profit insurance companies by the Brownback administration, has come under scrutiny from legislators and advocates for failing to live up to expectations. Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer view KanCare as a success.

Fertig has served as an assistant attorney general for the past six years in the legal opinions and government counsel division at Schmidt’s office. She previously worked as inspector general for the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority. She also was at the global pharmaceutical and health sciences division of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The concept of a Medicaid inspector general emerged from a 2005 legislative study committee. Two years later, lawmakers set up the office of inspector general at the Kansas Health Policy Authority. KHPA was abolished in 2011 and the inspector’s job moved to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. In recent years, officials at KDHE left the position vacant.

The 2017 Legislature decided to shift the inspector general’s office to the attorney general. State law requires establishment of a full-time apparatus to increase accountability, integrity and oversight of a Medicaid program serving 400,000 Kansans.

Specifically, the office is to “assist in improving agency and program operations and in deterring and identifying fraud, waste, abuse and illegal acts.” Kansas law requires that the inspector general “shall be independent and free from political influence.”