DHH executive retires

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Veteran state Department of Health and Hospitals executive Jerry Phillips is retiring.

DHH announced Phillips departure in a news release issued Wednesday.

As undersecretary, Phillips is second in command at DHH, the largest state government agency that commands more than a third of the state’s $25.6 billion budget. He frequently testifies before the Louisiana Legislature to answer budget-related about the state’s healthcare programs.

Phillips is leaving in March before the legislative session begins on March 10.

DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Jeff Reynolds will replace Phillips on March 10. He is deputy director over financial operations at Louisiana Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for low income residents that is run by DHH and covers about one-fourth of the residents in the state. “We are sad to lose Jerry’s experience, knowledge and camaradie. But, we are confident that Jeff Reynolds brings the right skillset to this critical position,” Kliebert said.

A lawyer, Phillips has played a key role in the iniative to have private insurance companies take over managing care for patients that is paid for with Medicaid dollars. He also helped develop financing for the public-private partnerships involving private takeover of LSU hospitals.

According to DHH, Phillips will pursue other employment options with the state following his retirement “in order to ensure the continuity of those partnerships.”

There was no further explanation of what is contemplated.

Phillips has worked for DHH for 25 years.

As undersecretary, he has directed the Office of Management and Finance and managed the department’s $9 billion budget during a tumultuous time of federal Medicaid funding reductions.

Prior to that, he served as director of the state’s Medicaid health insurance program for the poor. He’s also been Medicaid program deputy director and DHH’s deputy general counsel.

Phillips is a retired colonel with 30 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Prior to DHH’s announcement, the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System confirmed that Phillips has submitted papers indicating he planned to leave state government employment in March.

Phillips planned departure was the subject of a Wednesday staff meeting at DHH headquarters.