The head of Idaho’s largest state agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, is retiring.
Dave Jeppesen, who led Idaho’s state health department for five years, an agency with about 3,000 employees and a budget of $5.4 billion this fiscal year, funded mostly by federal funds, is stepping down at the end of the year, Idaho Gov. Brad Littles’ office said. . in a press release on Wednesday.
Former Idaho Legislator Dean Cameron, who has led the Idaho Department of Insurance since 2015, will serve as interim director of the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services until a permanent director is selected, Littles’ office said.
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Little will begin the process of hiring a permanent director of health and welfare in the spring of 2024, the release said, and Cameron will continue to serve as director of the Idaho Department of Insurance while serving as interim director of health and welfare. Permanent appointments by the governor are subject to approval by the Idaho Senate.
“Serving as director of PTV has been the greatest honor of my career and handing over my favorite job,” Jeppesen said in a statement. “I am grateful to Governor Little and the people of Idaho for entrusting me with such an important role.” The department and its hardworking employees work tirelessly to carry out the important mission of enhancing the health, safety and independence of Idahoans. I know I am leaving the agency in good hands with Dean Cameron, whom I consider a mentor and friend.
The large state agency has, under Jeppesen, handled several controversial issues and difficult moments in Idaho’s history, including the entire COVID-19 pandemic, the rejection of a child welfare case tied to anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and legislative oversight of the budget for its largest program, Medicaid.
Dave Jeppesen promised me two to four years in this position and I’m grateful he gave us five, Little said in a press release. “Dave has always had my full support and trust, and I am delighted to see him enjoying his retirement after a successful career.” He deserves it.”
Appointed by Little in 2019, Jeppesen guided the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic, appearing frequently at public press conferences to update the public on the state of the disease’s impact on the state’s hospital resources.
Jeppesen declared Idaho hospitals nationwide crisis more than two months in 2021 as the number of hospitalizations due to the virus increased. Idaho has never had a statewide mask mandate, but local governments have sometimes required them for limited gatherings.
“Dave has led the agency through major changes and improvements, and I join the many, many people in Idaho in expressing gratitude for his accomplishments and service,” Little said in a statement.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare administers social programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Women and Infants Program, provides public health services, regulates long-term care facilities, operates state mental health hospitals, provides welfare and child services for individuals with developmental disabilities.
The state Department of Health has examined the child care grant program
This year, the health agency has been embroiled in political controversy over $72 million in federal grants intended to help school-age children recover from learning loss from the pandemic.
An audit published in August found that a lack of internal controls in the department led to funds in that fund being used for unacceptable purposes. The department disagreed with all of the audit’s findings. Last week, Idaho state lawmakers on the powerful budget committee mulled how they would respond after Jeppesen refused to submit a corrective action plan.
Jeppesen and other top agency officials sued Idaho Attorney General Rahl Labrador in March, seeking to quash his civil subpoenas for information about the grants. Special prosecutor recently dropped and requests for information.
Just last month, former state legislator Ron Nate, now a senior policy fellow at the Idaho Freedom Foundation, called on Jeppesen to lose his job.
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The new interim director of health and social care has been involved in state politics for decades
Before heading the state health department, Jeppesen worked in finance and as chief marketing officer for Blue Cross of Idaho, according to his agency biography.
In an appearance before the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee shortly after being named director of the state health department in January 2019, Jeppesen told lawmakers as a fifth-generation Idahoan he wants to be part of a legacy for future Idahoans, Idaho Press reported in that time.
“From my experience in the private sector, it’s clear to me that Idaho can lead the country with … solutions that provide affordable health care,” he told the budget committee, according to the Idaho Press.
The Department of Health and Human Services exists to serve the people of Idaho, Jeppesen told Idaho budget writers in January 2023. Our mission is to strengthen the health, safety and independence of Idahoans. In other words, we exist to help people live their best lives.
Cameron will take over as director of the state’s health department in 2024. An Idaho insurance agent, Cameron served 25 years in the Idaho Senate.
“Dean Cameron brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in both the legislative and executive branches, as well as in the private sector,” Little said in a statement. “I have been fortunate to have Dean in my cabinet since I took office, and I appreciate him stepping into this role after so many years of working together.”
As director, Jeppesen earned $211,000 each year. Cameron, as head of the Insurance Department, earned $163,009 each year.
The agency oversees Medicaid, whose budget has caught the attention of lawmakers
The growth of the drug budget in recent years is drawn examination by legislators. A Medicaid Managed Care Task Force meeting this summer and fall has focused on finding ways to save money in Medicaid, possibly by having benefits run by private companies through a so-called managed care model, which is popular nationally.
That committee’s final report is pending, but lawmakers approved plans to draft legislation to create a new committee to oversee existing Medicaid contracts that are divide between private company managed care and physician managed care, while Medicaid has some benefits.
In the upcoming legislative session, Idaho Medicaid is requested A total of $5.7 million in funds to support 62 more employees, which agency officials say will be critical to cost savings and maintaining federal funding, which is the source of most of Idaho Medicaid’s funding.
Idaho’s state health department, like other states, has been unable to remove people from Medicaid during the pandemic amid federal protections. Since those protections were repealed in April, Idaho began removing people from Medicaid faster than most states, removing 121,000 people by August. Idaho Medicaid served about 450,000 people. At least 13,000 Idahoans removed from Medicaid did re-entered so far.
In 2020, Medicaid expanded to include a wider range of low-income people, as approved by Idaho voters in 2018.
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