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Iowa Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven resigns

June 17, 2019
FILE - in this April 26, 2019 file photo, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, speaks to reporters following a meeting in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The director of the Iowa Department of Human Services has resigned without explanation and Gov. Reynolds says she's replaced him with an interim director. Reynolds says in a statement that Jerry Foxhoven resigned Monday, June 17, 2019. She has named Department of Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh to take on interim duties running the DHS until a permanent replacement is hired. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The director of the Iowa Department of Human Services resigned Monday at the request of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, two years after she appointed him to the job to help fix a difficult transition from state-run Medicaid to a program run by private insurance companies.

“At the request of the governor, I submitted my resignation,” Jerry Foxhoven said in a statement. “It was an honor to serve Iowans at the Department of Human Services during an important time of transition.”

Reynolds said in a statement that Foxhoven resigned Monday and she has named Department of Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh to take on interim duties running the DHS until a permanent replacement can be found.

Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen called on Reynolds to immediately launch a nationwide search for a new director “who is truly committed to watching out for the most vulnerable children and adults in Iowa.”

Foxhoven was appointed by Reynolds in June 2017 and described as a compassionate, thoughtful leader with “the experience, qualification, respect and passion to excel in this demanding role.”

During the past two years, however, he has overseen a rocky transition to a privatized Medicaid program in which two major insurers have departed the state.

UnitedHealthcare informed the state in March it was leaving the $5 billion program that serves about 600,000 poor and disabled people.

The company cited “persistent funding and program design challenges make it impossible for us to provide the quality care and service we believe people deserve.”

Reynolds and Foxhoven claimed they cut off negotiations after the company made unreasonable demands.

It was the second health care insurance provider to leave the Iowa program over money since it was handed over to private companies by former Gov. Terry Branstad in 2016. Reynolds, when she assumed the governorship in May 2017, continued the privatization despite complaints that the program wasn’t adequately serving recipients and calls to return it to a state-run program.

AmeriHealth Caritas pulled out of the program in October 2017 owing millions in unpaid claims to hospitals and private and nonprofit service providers.

Negotiations have been underway for new contract agreements for next year with Amerigroup, a subsidiary of Anthem Inc. which remains under contract with Iowa and Iowa Total Care, a division of Centene Corp. which entered a contract with Iowa just last May to replace AmeriHealth. It begins serving Iowans on July 1 and is currently signing up doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

Sen. Pam Jochum said Monday that Foxhoven’s departure is a surprise especially during contract negotiations and as Iowa Total Care is signing up with doctors, hospitals and other care providers.

She said she’s heard from parents with children in the Medicaid program that they haven’t received letters from the DHS about the transition promised weeks ago. Some recipients are reporting their doctors have not signed contracts with the new insurer, creating anxiety that services will be disrupted.

“The timing couldn’t be worse,” said Jochum, a Dubuque Democrat who’s been critical of privatized Medicaid.

Foxhoven has also faced criticism about oversight of state juvenile institutions which fall under DHS administration.

The Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, which housed troubled girls closed after questions were raised about their treatment and a federal lawsuit under way now is delving into use of isolation rooms and restraints at the Iowa Training School for Boys.

The Glenwood Resource Center, which cares for clients with intellectual disabilities, has reported eight deaths in four months raising questions about the quality of care.

Foxhoven is a lawyer with expertise in family law and child advocacy programs. He also served as a professor at the Drake University School of Law before taking the DHS appointment.

Clabaugh has served as public health director since 2014 and takes over DHS duties immediately.

Reynolds offered no explanation for the sudden change. She has touted her hiring of Foxhoven and Iowa Medicaid Director Michael Randol as signs she’s working to correct issues caused by the transition to privatized Medicaid.

Jochum said just last week Foxhoven announced Rick Shults, the administrator overseeing the DHS’ Division of Mental Health and Disability Services, which has oversight of the resource centers would retire next month.

Shults said Monday his retirement announcement is unrelated to Foxhoven’s departure.

A residential telephone number listed for Foxhoven rang unanswered Monday.

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