JEFFERSON CITY • The head of Missouri’s social services department has resigned, one week after the state’s longtime Medicaid chief departed without explanation.
Social Services Director Alan Freeman will return to his position as chief executive officer of Grace Hill Health Centers in St. Louis, effective May 31, Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement issued Monday. Freeman had been on the job less than five months.
“The reality I have come to affirm during these few months is that leadership of health care organizations, particularly those that benefit the underserved, is where I belong,” Freeman said in his resignation letter.
Last week, Ian McCaslin left his position as director of the $8.5 billion Medicaid program, which is part of the social services department. Officials have declined to say whether McCaslin resigned or was ousted. McCaslin told the Associated Press that he had no job lined up.
McCaslin had run the joint state and federal health care program since August 2007. He was hired by then-Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, and retained by Nixon, a Democrat, in 2009.
A former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, McCaslin won high marks from both Republicans and Democrats.
“It’s a travesty that he’s gone,” said Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-Webster Groves, who serves on the appropriations committee that oversees Medicaid.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, said she had “a lot of respect for Ian McCaslin. I believe he brought Medicaid a long ways.”
The program covers more than 880,000 people — low-income elderly, disabled and some families with children.
The changes at the department could be connected to Nixon’s failure to win legislative approval of Medicaid expansion, Allen said. The Republican-led Legislature defeated the governor’s proposal to expand eligibility to an additional 260,000 Missourians. Republicans said the expansion was financially unsustainable.
Neither Freeman nor McCaslin could be reached Monday. Nixon’s spokeswoman, Channing Ansley, said she would not characterize the changes as a shake-up.
“Alan makes it pretty clear he is wanting to go back to his role of serving underserved populations,” she said. Ansley referred questions about McCaslin to the social services agency, which did not return a phone call.
Deputy director Brian Kinkade will take over as interim department director. Jennifer Tidball, who runs the Division of Finance and Administrative Services, will serve as interim Medicaid director.