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Kirk Mathews

Former Missouri Rep. Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson has hired a former state lawmaker who once owned a health care company to oversee a plan to slow the rising cost of Missouri’s Medicaid program.

Former representative Kirk Mathews, a Republican from Pacific, is the new "chief transformation officer" of the multibillion dollar health care program, Medicaid Director Todd Richardson announced last week.

The hiring follows the state's release of a study in February that said Missouri could save as much as $1 billion annually within the next four years by undertaking an ambitious and potentially controversial overhaul of services and rates provided through the program.

The report, which cost $2.7 million, said the state could alter reimbursement rates for hospitals, doctors and nursing homes, shift more people to home-care services and better manage prescription drug costs as a way to rein in rising costs.

In a statement posted on LinkedIn, Mathews said his experience as the owner of a physician practice management company and as a lawmaker will help him in the newly created post.

“Medicaid represents one-third of our state budget … roughly $10 billion and growing. Our vision is to make the Missouri Medicaid program the best in class while providing important services to our state's most vulnerable population in a manner that is financially sustainable,” he said.

Mathews is making $142,500 a year in his new role.

The study said Medicaid spending may comprise 26% to 30% of state general revenue by 2023 if no changes are made.

Mathews’ hiring comes as Medicaid enrollment has plummeted in recent months, triggering a debate over whether the state is kicking people out of the program.

Records shows 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have lost coverage within the past year. Among other factors, the state has attributed the drop to an improved economy.

But, a new system that checks eligibility also could have resulted in people losing access to the program.

Mathews was first elected to the Missouri House in 2014. He announced he wouldn’t seek a third term last year. His 110th District included parts of St. Louis County, a small portion of eastern Franklin County and northern Jefferson County.

In taking the job, Mathews becomes the 14th former state lawmaker appointed to a key post in Gov. Mike Parson’s administration.

Others include Richardson, who was speaker of the House before taking his $225,000-per-year job. Former Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, is making $86,000 as a member of the Missouri Probation and Parole Board.

Parson also used his appointment powers to name former Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City as lieutenant governor. Former Sen. Eric Schmitt of Glendale was named attorney general in January after Josh Hawley vacated the position for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Former House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick is now state treasurer, filling Schmitt's vacancy.

Former Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, was hired as a liaison in Parson’s St. Louis satellite office. Former Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, is serving as Parson’s chief legislative director.

Lyndall Fraker, a former state representative from Marshfield, was tabbed to oversee the implementation of the state’s new medical marijuana law. And former Rep. Craig Redmon, R-Canton, was named director of the state's Division of Energy earlier this year.

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