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Headline: Kentucky health chief Holsinger will resign
[November 19, 2005]

Headline: Kentucky health chief Holsinger will resign


(The Courier-Journal)SubHead: Secretary wins praise for tenure

Byline: Deborah Yetter

dyetter@courier-journal.com

Source: The Courier-Journal

Dr. James Holsinger, Kentucky's top public health official, who oversees the Medicaid program, is resigning as Gov. Ernie Fletcher's secretary of health and family services.

Holsinger, 66, said yesterday that he is leaving effective Dec. 31 to spend more time with his family - his wife, four daughters, five grandchildren and his mother, 96.

And he said he will return to teaching medicine at the University of Kentucky.

"It's been a great job. I've really had a great time," Holsinger said. "At the same time, it's my sense that it's the right time and it's the right decision."

Holsinger was hired as secretary under a contract with UK at a salary of $247,200.

Fletcher praised Holsinger for his "great leadership." A successor has not been named.

Holsinger's departure comes midway through Fletcher's term and just before the 2006 legislative session, during which Medicaid and other human -services issues are expected to take up much of lawmakers' time.

Some lawmakers and advocates for groups served by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Holsinger will be hard to replace.

"That's a huge management position to take on," said mental health advocate Sheila Schuster.

"I hate to lose him because he is a real joy to work with," said Rep. Tom Burch, D-Buechel, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

"He's very caring, he's very capable," said Rep. Scott Brinkman, R-Louisville.

'Things well in hand'

Holsinger said he believes his cabinet's efforts - including a redesign of Medicaid - are making good progress and won't suffer from his departure.

"I'm leaving at a time when we've got some of the major things well in hand," he said.

Holsinger is Fletcher's second cabinet secretary to leave, following Commerce Secretary James Host, who resigned last month .

Host cited health and personal reasons.

Holsinger said the investigation into Fletcher administration hiring practices was not a factor in his departure.

Lawmakers said Holsinger, although a member of a Republican administration, worked well with members of both parties and showed a deep concern for the hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians served by his cabinet.

Presided over merger

Holsinger presided over the merger of the Health Services and Families and Children cabinets that had been split into two agencies by previous administrations.

The merged cabinet oversees public health - including Medicaid, a state-federal health plan for nearly 700,000 low -income or disabled Kentuckians - as well as child and adult protection, foster care and other social services.

Holsinger drew praise from advocates who have been working with officials in the cabinet to reorganize Medicaid, reduce its budget shortfalls and make the program more efficient.

"He's always been available to us. He's always been very responsive," said Laurel True of Shelbyville, a volunteer for AARP of Kentucky who has worked with the cabinet on the Medicaid changes.

"He's very caring, he's very capable."

REP. SCOTT BRINKMAN,

R-Louisville, speaking of

Dr. James Holsinger, secretary

of the Cabinet for Health

and Family Services

Caption: Dr. James Holsinger said he is leaving his post to spend more time with his family. He said he will return to teaching medicine at UK.

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