Gov. Sam Brownback's office on Wednesday announced that Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, will become the new state budget director and Kari Bruffett, currently head of the division of health care finance at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, will step in as KDADS chief.
"Shawn Sullivan has been a strong leader at KDADS who will bring keen analytical skills and business knowledge to the budget office,” Brownback said in a prepared statement. “Kari’s experience with the KanCare program and her ability to forge collaborations will serve the citizens of Kansans well. I am grateful to both Shawn and Kari for their dedication to the state and appreciate their willingness to serve.”
Sullivan will replace Jon Hummel, who has been serving as interim budget director since the resignation of Steve Anderson in August 2013.
Sullivan has been in the Brownback Cabinet since 2011. Bruffett has been at KDHE since 2011.
KDHE officials said Medicaid Director Dr. Susan Mosier will act as interim director of the KDHE health care finance division until a replacement is found for Bruffett.
Reaction to the staffing changes was mixed, though both Sullivan and Bruffett are generally well regarded by those familiar with the state's two leading Medicaid agencies.
“Shawn is very bright, intelligent, active person, and he’s the most personable of all the (Cabinet) secretaries,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who serves on the Legislature's oversight committee for KanCare and home and community based services. “But with all the struggles that KanCare is having, I have to say this (change) concerns me. But, obviously, the budget has some concerns, too.
“Kari has always been a real in-the-weeds, knows-all-the-details type person with all the KanCare stuff," Ward said. "So she will be a great loss when it comes to the day-to-day oversight of KanCare. It’ll be interesting to see who they put in her position because of all the things going on with KanCare now. Let’s see, the companies are all losing money, the providers aren’t getting paid, everybody’s talking about how there are going to have to be changes in the plans of care. So, yeah, this is a big loss for KanCare.”
Others said that Bruffett's experience with KanCare details would serve her well in her new post.
"As Secretary Bruffett works together with community providers, the hospitals and the outpatient programs, KanCare will continue to be something that continues to need to be monitored closely,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas. “And as someone who is representing community mental health centers in the state of Kansas, I can honestly say I’m happy to have someone at KDADS who knows KanCare backwards and forwards.”
“Shawn is a very, very capable individual," said Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican who has worked closely with Sullivan and Bruffett as chair of the House Social Services Budget Committee. "I think he’ll do a great job as budget director. He has great insight, he’s very innovative, he’s a good man for the job. Moving Kari over to KDADS is a good move as well. She is very capable. I think this will all work out fine.”
Dave Ranney is senior writer/editor with KHI News Service, an editorially independent reporting program of the Kansas Health Institute. Mike Shields is managing editor of KHI News Service.