COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Department of Medicaid Director Barbara Sears is stepping down for a job in the private sector, one of many members of Gov. John Kasich’s administration who are leaving as his second term winds down.
Sears is taking a job at a Columbus consulting company, Strategic Health Care. Her last day is Dec. 31.
Sears is a member of Kasich’s cabinet, and the second Medicaid director after Ohio expanded the program in 2014 with the Affordable Care Act.
Kasich has named James G. Tassie as interim director, starting Jan. 1. Tassie has been the agency’s assistant director for three years. Ultimately, it will be up to Gov.-elect Mike DeWine, who is sworn into office Jan. 14, to decide who he wants to run the program.
Ohio Medicaid has around 3 million enrollees. It’s much watched by lawmakers who support and disagree with expansion, which was a key part of Obamacare, as well as lobbyists from insurance companies, doctors and nurses groups, and mental health and addiction associations.
Under Sears, more health care services were transferred to managed care. Up until this summer, six large private insurers covered Ohio Medicaid recipients’ physical health care. On July 1, they started covering the patients’ mental health and addiction services, which had previously been paid for directly by the state.
Sears is a Republican who previously had been in the Ohio House, representing the Toledo area. She had worked on health and Medicaid bills during her time in the General Assembly.
She left the legislature when Kasich tapped her as his assistant for the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, which was created to modernize Medicaid and contain costs. Kasich later named her the Medicaid chief.
From 1986 to 2016, Sears sold health and life insurance and was a small business owner.