Today, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein recognized outgoing Medicaid Director Don Gregory for his 36 years of public service and named Ruth Kennedy the department's next Medicaid Director.

Gregory, who will retire effective June 21, has served as Medicaid director since 2010. Kennedy, who also has been with the state more than 30 years, is currently Medicaid deputy director and BAYOU HEALTH project director. She will become Medicaid director immediately upon Gregory's retirement.

"I want to thank Don for his years of public service and tireless leadership across the Department and in Medicaid," Secretary Greenstein said. "His steady hand of leadership has been essential in the successful implementation of BAYOU HEALTH.  Luckily, Ruth has also dedicated her career to Louisiana's children and families, and we are grateful she will be at the helm as we continue our efforts to transform Medicaid."

Prior to becoming Medicaid director, Gregory worked in a variety of other positions in the program, including managing eligibility and enrollment operations statewide. As Medicaid Director, Gregory has overseen historic changes to the program, including the development of managed care in Louisiana Medicaid through BAYOU HEALTH and the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership. In BAYOU HEALTH, most Medicaid and LaCHIP patients enroll in networks administered by five private Health Plans that coordinate care and increase access to medical services. BAYOU HEALTH will be fully implemented statewide on June 1. The Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership, which began March 1, implements coordinated care for specialized behavioral health care services provided through Medicaid.

Gregory has also led collaborations with the Medicaid fiscal intermediary to create more streamlined claims and billing processes for Medicaid providers and implement stronger prepayment screening processes to monitor for fraud, waste and abuse in the program.

Kennedy began her Medicaid career working in a field eligibility office, and has since held various administrative roles with the program. Kennedy played a central role in the implementation of LaCHIP, which provides health care coverage to children from low-income families. In 2004, she received the Louisiana Jimmie Davis Sunshine Award, which recognizes the public servant who brings the most "sunshine" into the lives of Louisiana residents, for her work to target eligible children and pregnant women through Medicaid outreach.

For the past three years, Kennedy has served as BAYOU HEALTH project director, researching similar programs in more than two dozen states and working with staff to create the best possible model for Louisiana Medicaid. Kennedy directly oversees all day-to-day aspects of BAYOU HEALTH implementation, and personally corresponds with providers, recipients, advocates and other stakeholders to address their questions and concerns.

Gregory and Kennedy have both been recognized nationally for their work, including awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Don and Ruth are both true public servants who have dedicated their careers to improving health care in Louisiana," Greenstein said. "Louisiana is fortunate to have individuals with their experience and dedication leading our program, and we are thankful for their service and guidance."