Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Man who led implementation of Obamacare under Gov. Andy Beshear's father will be acting health secretary, then deputy

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Just hours before being sworn in as the state's next governor, Andy Beshear named the remaining secretaries of his cabinet, including Eric Friedlander as acting secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the state's largest cabinet.

Andy Beshear and Eric Friedlander
Friedlander is holding both the deputy secretary and acting secretary positions and will stay on as deputy once a permanent secretary is hired.

Beshear called Friedlander "an accomplished and mission-driven executive with more than 30 years of experience leading and managing complex organizations in challenging and politically charged environments."

Friedlander led and managed the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, under then-Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear's father. He has been chief resilience officer for Louisville Metro Government.

"Eric is one of those gems that can work, understand and help move the mission in both parts of that cabinet," said Beshear. "You have one part of that cabinet that is Medicaid and is public health. You have another part of that cabinet that is supposed to protect our most vulnerable children that are out there. Eric brings the experience in to hit the ground running on day one to be able to do both."

Friedlander said he had worked for the cabinet since 1985, and in thanking Beshear for the appointment recognized the dedication of the men and women in the health cabinet, calling them "unsung heroes."

"I look forward to serving in an administration that believes in improving the health and well being of every Kentuckian," he said. "Thank you for that opportunity."

Asked about the state's persistent bottom-10 health ranking and what was next for the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion, which has been touted as one way to improve the state's health status, he said, "I think the answer is actually quite simple. I think we need to build on the success that we had in expanding Medicaid. I think we need to build on the success of having more people insured and not try to back away from that."

Beshear has said he would drop then-Gov. Matt Bevin's attempt to require many if not most people on the expansion to work, volunteer or attend school or job training, a move that Bevin's administration initially predicted would reduce Medicaid rolls by 95,000 over five years. The proposal was blocked by a federal judge and an appeal has been argued.

Beshear appointed former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Mary Noble as justice secretary. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, applauded the appointments, saying in a statement, "There are perhaps no two positions more vital when it comes to child well-being."

In particular, Brooks noted that KYA was looking forward to working with Friedlander and his team to implement the federal Families First Prevention and Services Act, which aims to reduce the number of children in the foster care system by providing funding for prevention and preservation services, including substance abuse and mental health services for families and children.

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