BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A number of challenges await Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, who takes over as head of the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) in April.
She replaces Dr. Rebekah Gee, who resigned to take a private health care job in January.
Chief among her responsibilities, Phillips will have to hire a new director for the state’s Medicaid program. One in three Louisianans rely on the government insurance program since Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded access to the program with his first executive order in 2016.
Certain medicaid providers are also contesting $21 billion contracts awarded by the state to administer coverage, which could affect some Louisianan’s policies.
In addition, the admitting privileges law headed to the Supreme Court.
“I can’t think of a more important job in state government than managing that,” Louisiana Budget Project head and health care advocate Jan Moller said. “I think the department really needs someone who understands the administrative nuts and bolts of keeping the Medicaid program going.”
Dr. Phillips spent 12 years at LDH in various roles before she took over the Nebraska health department. She spent last year running the Texas’ Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, Phillips will have to address the current Hepatitis A outbreak, which has infected 700 Louisianans since the beginning of 2018 and killed three.
She is also likely to testify in front of the Supreme Court, which will rule on Louisiana’s admitting privileges law that would almost certainly close some abortion clinics if upheld.
Phillips is from Plaquemines parish, and still has family in the area. She will make $250,000, $40,000 less than what she made in the same role for the state of Texas but more than Gee’s salary.