NYS Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson to Leave in April

NYAPRS Note: The biggest rumor in Albany for the last month has turned out to be true. NYS Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson will be leaving his post in April. 
Jason has been responsible for one of the most sweeping Medicaid transformations in the nation, if not internationally. We will always be grateful for the clear and unswerving leadership he’s displayed since he came here from Wisconsin in 2011 in moving our systems from ‘volume to value”, judging services based on their capability to improve the healthcare of almost 5 million Medicaid enrollees. We’re thankful too for the new partnerships that have been forged across the state to better integrate care and address avoidable crises and relapses. 
NYAPRS is particularly grateful for the regular access he gave to our consumer and recovery communities in helping to shape new policy, the critical recognition of the essential value of social determinants (e.g. housing, employment, social supports) and most recently, the valuing he’s given to peer delivered services. 
While community based groups continue to scramble while hospital groups have received the lion’s share of new federal Medicaid dollars and while the state continues to attempt to fix the move to health homes and care management for all, there’s no questioning that Jason has put New York’s Medicaid healthcare system on a transformative trajectory that has already delivered on the promise to improve the health of millions of New Yorkers. We will miss him greatly. 

The following reports come from tonight’s Albany Times Union and Politico. 

New York's Medicaid director, Jason Helgerson, will step down from his post later this spring once the 2018-19 state budget is finalized, the governor's office confirmed Tuesday.

In assembling a Medicaid Redesign Team consisting of many of the forces that usually fought off Medicaid reforms or cuts (hospitals and labor, for example) and charging them with reshaping the system, Jason has been able to fundamentally shift how health and behavioral healthcare is and will be delivered in New York. 

Along the way “Cuomo's willingness to provide billions of dollars in capital and operational funding to hospitals and Helgerson's understanding of the Medicaid program, specifically the new opportunities the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act were offering states” proved to be essential elements. The Medicaid Redesign Team brought together health care interests from across the state and they soon agreed to cut Medicaid rates by 2 percent, cap the growth of state Medicaid spending and apply for an enormous waiver that would bring billions in federal dollars back to New York,” Politico reported.

Jason’s “legacy will be inexorably linked to the state's Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, or DSRIP, an $8 billion Medicaid waiver from the federal government that seeks to both reduce avoidable hospitalizations by 25 percent and provide health systems across the state with the resources they need to transition to value-based care,” Politico reported.  

“Helgerson has faced criticism during his tenure as have the programs he has championed. The DSRIP program is derided by some as a hospital giveaway that failed to do enough to involve community-based organizations. Claims data remains too cumbersome to obtain for any practical use. The health homes program has not lived up to its hype. And the Medicaid program has been criticized recently for failing to do enough to reform care delivery for children.”

"Jason's a nationally recognized pro who has been an invaluable part of Team Cuomo during the past seven and a half years," said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi. "He was instrumental in redesigning New York's Medicaid system to lower costs and help more residents, was invaluable with our efforts to secure the Medicaid waiver from the Obama administration that allowed the largest health care system transformation in the nation to continue, and greatly helped in our efforts to defeat punitive Republican federal legislation that would have devastated New York's healthcare network," he said. "We will miss him greatly and wish him well in his next chapter."

"He was instrumental in redesigning New York's Medicaid system to lower costs and help more residents, was invaluable with our efforts to secure the Medicaid waiver from the Obama administration that allowed the largest healthcare system transformation in the nation to continue, and greatly helped in our efforts to defeat punitive Republican federal legislation that would have devastated New York's healthcare network. We will miss him greatly and wish him well in his next chapter."