- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The acting inspector general for Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program abruptly resigned Friday, facing questions about whether he was qualified for the job and still unable to perform all of his duties because he was awaiting state Senate confirmation.

Sara Belfry, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said former state Rep. Phil Hermanson stepped down Friday afternoon. He’d been appointed acting inspector general in April by department Secretary Robert Moser.

Hermanson submitted a letter of resignation, but Belfry said the department is not releasing it because, “this is a personnel matter.” Hermanson did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday afternoon.

“The position is open,” Belfry said. “We will have to go through the process again.”

Democratic legislators had criticized Hermanson’s appointment because has no auditing or investigatory experience. The inspector general is charged with identifying fraud within the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care to the needy and disabled. Hermanson’s salary was $77,000.

In Kansas, Medicaid is known as KanCare, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has turned over its management to three large, private health insurance companies.

Hermanson’s past included a 1998 bankruptcy tied to the closing of a small business he operated, and a no contest plea to a charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs following a November 2009 traffic accident. A Republican, he was first elected to the House in 2008 in a Wichita-area district, serving until October 2013, when he stepped down after remarrying and moving.

The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported the questions about Hermanson’s appointment last week.

“I don’t fault Phil Hermanson for being appointed to that position. I fault Secretary Moser or the Brownback administration for putting him in that position, because he wasn’t qualified for it.” Senate Minority Leader Anthony, a Topeka Democrat, told The Associated Press after the resignation.

Hensley added: “It looks more like a political appointment to reward, you know, a loyal Republican, as opposed to finding the best-qualified person.”

Belfry declined to respond to Hensley’s comments.

Hermanson started in the inspector general’s job in April 28, and legislators wrapped up business for the year on May 3 without the Senate taking up his appointment. Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to reconvene until January 2015.

State law requires the inspector general to be confirmed by the Senate, and Hermanson therefore couldn’t exercise the authority given to the office to root out fraud.

However, Kansas law also allows the Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee to approve appointments between annual legislative sessions, so officials can begin serving, subject to being removed if they can’t win confirmation by the full Senate later. Senate leaders expect the committee to meet during the summer.

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Associated Press Writer John Milburn contributed to this report.

Online:

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: https://www.kdheks.gov/

Kansas Legislature: https://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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