Cindy Mann's planned departure next month from her post as the CMS' deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program Services (CMCS) surprised healthcare stakeholders who know her and are familiar with her work.
“It's a tremendous loss for the Medicaid program. Cindy Mann has been an incredible public servant who has worked tirelessly and is brilliant, passionate and committed to making government work for vulnerable people,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced the news via an email sent to staff Friday afternoon. Mann has held her post since 2009. Vikki Wachino, deputy director of CMCS will become the acting director while the CMS looks for a replacement. A specific exit date for Mann was not released.
“[Mann] has been an open and trustworthy partner to state leaders on the front lines of administering these programs,” Tavenner said in the email. “She has also been a passionate advocate for beneficiaries, a stalwart steward of taxpayer funds, and an inspiring and tireless leader for staff in CMCS and throughout the agency.”
Mann is credited with putting policies in place that were used as the guard rails for Medicaid expansion, with enrollment in both Medicaid and CHIP growing by 9.7 million since September 2013.
Industry insiders say there had been no rumblings that Mann was looking to exit, and she was expected to stay at least through the end of the Obama administration.
“She has been a good Medicaid director, encouraging or allowing more experimentation in states that expanded Medicaid than I had expected,” said Gail Wilensky, former Medicaid program director under President George H.W. Bush.
“As an attorney, an advocate, and a public servant, Cindy Mann has been a champion for children. We're sad to see her go,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the bipartisan children's advocacy organization First Focus.
Mann had developed a reputation for being very accessible to state Medicaid directors and hospital officials. Doug Porter, a principal at consulting firm Health Management Associates and a former Medicaid director in both Washington state and California, recalls her responding to his emails as late as 11:30 pm Eastern Standard Time.
“She worked tirelessly and was very approachable,” Porter said. “I think that's important, since Medicaid can be complicated, and there was benefit in having someone that could speak plainly to the heart of the matter.”
Administrative oversight over Medicaid will likely not suffer from her departure, since Mann has a strong support staff in place and Wachino has worked with her for many years, according to Deborah Bachrach, a partner at law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and a former New York state Medicaid director.
Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHVDickson