(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today announced Michael Hales, who has served as Medicaid director for the past ten years, is stepping down to pursue opportunities in the private sector. In addition to overseeing the Medicaid program, Hales also serves as deputy director of the UDOH.
Hales oversaw one of the largest and most important programs in state government. Medicaid has an operating budget of nearly $2.5 billion, and is a vital and essential part of Utah’s health care infrastructure, providing nearly 320,000 Utahns with access to health care.
“Michael Hales has done a tremendous job in a demanding and challenging position in state government,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert said. “The complex program he directed was always in the spotlight. But his top priority was always the vulnerable Utahns who rely on the program to access health care.”
Under Hales’ leadership, the Medicaid program has undergone significant reforms that have benefited taxpayers and program recipients alike. In 2007 the program implemented the Medicaid Preferred Drug List (PDL); last year alone the PDL saved taxpayers $46 million. Hales also oversaw the conversion to Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations, essentially shifting health care providers to a model that values quality of care versus quantity of care for recipients. Several other Medicaid services have also been expanded under Hales’ watch, including services to cover children with autism and other medically complex conditions.
“As Medicaid director, Michael Hales worked tirelessly to ensure that Medicaid consumers were treated fairly and received appropriate care,” said Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project. “Michael’s tenure saw great change and transition and he directed with a capable and steady hand to ensure the success of the Medicaid program for our friends, family and neighbors who utilize the program.”
Nathan Checketts, currently serving as Medicaid deputy director, will assume the role of interim Medicaid director effective December 31, 2015. A search for Hales’ replacement will begin early next year. By state law, the Medicaid director is appointed by the governor, with advice and consent from the Utah State Senate.
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