Dara Corrigan, a veteran fraud fighter, was named temporary head of HHS' inspector general's office, replacing Inspector General Janet Rehnquist, who resigned effective June 1.
"Dara has admirably served HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. "She will aggressively ensure that the Office of Inspector General continues to protect taxpayers from fraud and abuse."
For bureaucratic reasons, Corrigan's official title is acting principal deputy inspector general.
Corrigan is a well-regarded career civil servant and healthcare prosecutor who since February has served as director of program integrity at the CMS, replacing Tim Hill. Prior to that, Corrigan was deputy chief counsel for program integrity at HHS. In her recent role she served as liaison to the U.S. Justice Department, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and HHS' inspector general's office.
Corrigan began her career at the Justice Department in the civil fraud section and is considered an authority on healthcare fraud. She also spent four years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, where she coordinated healthcare fraud cases. Corrigan earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, the alma mater of her current boss, CMS Administrator Tom Scully, and her predecessor, Rehnquist.
Health lawyers said Corrigan brings solid fraud-fighting credentials, a reputation for a strong work ethic and a keen understanding of healthcare fraud laws and issues to the job. Like Rehnquist, however, she lacks strong executive and managerial experience and may not be viewed as totally independent, they said.
HHS spokesman William Pierce said laws governing the appointment of inspectors general prohibit the appointment of an acting inspector general in cases where the appointment is not considered permanent. "But the law does allow the naming of an acting principal deputy inspector general to run the office," said Pierce, who pointed out that the search for a permanent inspector general is ongoing. "So that's why it was done this way."
Corrigan inherits an agency in disarray. Rehnquist, the subject of investigations by the General Accounting Office and the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency for her management of the office, has been mostly absent since she announced her resignation. Rehnquist allegedly caused more than 16 major personnel changes among senior staffers at the agency. And she came under fire from Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the current and former chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee, for allegedly performing political favors for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and several Pennsylvania elected officials.
In a statement, Grassley said, "I look forward to working with Ms. Corrigan as the White House continues its efforts to identify a permanent inspector general for this critical office."
Mac Thornton, former chief counsel to HHS' inspector general, called Corrigan an excellent choice.
"She has a solid legal background in healthcare law and is a level-headed, seasoned professional of unquestioned integrity," he said. "I'm gratified they put someone with her credentials in there pending the final selection."