Governor's health policy adviser claims ignorance about Medicaid problems

Service cuts to Iowans with disabilities under privatized Medicaid prompted a 2017 lawsuit, became a central theme of the 2018 governor’s race, and were a featured problem in an annual report from the state ombudsman.

Yet in a meeting with advocates last week, Governor Kim Reynolds’ health policy adviser said she is unaware of major problems for patients trying to obtain essential services.

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Questions and answers: Jerry Foxhoven's wrongful termination claim

Former Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven revealed more details about his wrongful termination claim on August 1. He asserts that he was fired after expressing concern about the DHS continuing to pay a large share of the salary for the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson.

As Bleeding Heartland reported last week, Thorson worked extensively on Medicaid-related issues for some time, but she became less involved with the DHS this spring, as Governor Kim Reynolds brought on a new health policy adviser.

Foxhoven and his attorney Tom Duff released a written statement and answered many follow-up questions during a 45-minute news conference. Radio Iowa posted the full audio. The questions and answers below are not a transcript from the conference, but rather my effort to put information about Foxhoven’s case in context for readers.

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Jerry Foxhoven to claim wrongful termination, retaliation

Jerry Foxhoven will pursue legal action claiming retaliation and wrongful termination as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, Ryan Foley was first to report for the Associated Press on July 31. His attorney, Tom Duff, told the AP

that Foxhoven objected to a request to continue to have his agency fund most of the salary of the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson. Duff says that Foxhoven believed the arrangement made sense when he approved it in 2018. But he said that, by June, Foxhoven believed Thorson was no longer furthering the agency’s interests.

Duff plans to release a more detailed statement at an August 1 news conference, his office told Iowa reporters today.

As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, Thorson had handled health policy for the governor’s office since late 2017, but Governor Kim Reynolds brought Liz Matney over from the DHS this spring to be her health policy advisor.

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Iowa Medicaid oversight chief to be governor's new health policy analyst

Elizabeth Matney, who has led the Iowa Medicaid Bureau of Managed Care since the state began privatizing nearly the whole program in 2015, is leaving the Department of Human Services to become Governor Kim Reynolds’ health policy advisor, Matney’s LinkedIn profile shows. Her starting date is unclear; the governor’s office has not announced Matney’s hiring or responded to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries on the subject. A DHS organizational chart dated June 17 still shows Matney as bureau chief for MCO Oversight & Supports, the state’s leading official for overseeing the private companies picked to manage care for more than 600,000 Iowans on Medicaid.

When the new fiscal year begins on July 1, the governor’s office will receive additional funding for staff, so Matney’s work for Reynolds may formally begin at that time. The governor’s previous health policy advisor, Paige Thorson, appears to be staying on as deputy chief of staff, meaning that new funds would be needed to pay Matney (the governor’s staff have not clarified that point).

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