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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Dr. Bob Mullins is out as the Commissioner of Alabama's Medicaid Agency. A spokesperson for the Medicaid Agency released a statement Monday afternoon announcing Mullins' resignation. It is effective April 30.
State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson will lead a task force to evaluate and start a leadership transition for the agency, according to Governor Robert Bentley's office. Independent experts will also be involved in a review the agency's finances.
Bill Higdon, who retired from the finance department at UAB Hospital will serve as Interim Chief Financial Officer for the AMA.
Governor Bentley named Mullins the head of the department in December 2010. Mullins is a close personal friend of Gov. Bentley and the two grew up together in Columbiana.
Mullins took the job after serving as a family physician in Valley, Ala. for nearly 40 years. When he took office, Mullins said he knew that he was entering a department that faced an uphill financial battle. He said he turned down his good friend Gov. Bentley three times when he asked him to take over the department.
The move comes only days after the Chair of the House General Fund Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jim Barton (R – Mobile) said, "We're going to have to make some changes in that agency because apparently they don't know what they're doing."
His comments came in reference to an "$81 million mistake" that came to light during budget talks with the department. Rep. Barton said at one point earlier in the year the department indicated it could save up to $111 million but that turned out not to be the case.
In a statement last week, a spokesperson for the governor said the department was hoping to receive additional federal funds but "as we dug deeper into the data, we realized we would not be able to draw down enough in federal funds to offset proration."
Alabama's Medicaid Agency is a $6.3 billion department. The agency received $643 million from Alabama's General Fund Budget for the 2012 fiscal year. It was one of only four agencies spared from budget cuts and proration last year as well. The other were the Ethics Commission, the Department of Corrections and Pardons and Paroles. The rest of its budget comes in the form of more than $4.4 billion in federal funds in addition to several other state sources.
The General Fund accounts for about 10% of Medicaid's annual operating budget.
In the press release announcing his resignation Mullins said, "There are a number of urgent and compelling issues that must be addressed to maintain the financial health of the state and the overall health of a growing number of Medicaid recipients."
He continued and said, "I came to this position with a clinical background which is important. However, the current budget environment requires a different set of skills, and I want to give Governor Bentley the opportunity to bring in a person to meet that need."
Mullins served as Commissioner of the Alabama Medicaid Agency for 14 months. A replacement has not yet been named.
Governor Bentley praised Mullins for "significant progress" during his tenure in relation to electronic health records that reduced paperwork and costs, as well as development of patient care networks and the community-based PACE program for the elderly and disabled.