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Wachino Appointed Permanent Head of Medicaid Program

By Rebecca Adams, CQ Roll Call

April 17, 2015 -- Vikki Wachino, who became the acting federal Medicaid director in January, has been named the permanent director of the health program for the poor.

"I could think of no one more qualified," said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt in an internal email sent to staff late last week.

Wachino is now the Director for the Center for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Services. A CMS spokeswoman said Wachino will not have the additional title of Deputy CMS Administrator that her predecessor, Cindy Mann, had.

Wachino is well-known for her decades of work on Medicaid. She previously worked at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the White House Office of Management and Budget before working closely with Mann as a top federal Medicaid official early in the Obama administration. After she left CMS, she worked for more than a year at the NORC at the University of Chicago, a research organization, before returning to CMS last year.

The National Association of Medicaid Directors applauded her appointment.

"Vikki has demonstrated the strength of her commitment to Medicaid throughout her career and her ability to work well with state Medicaid Directors as partners," the group said in a statement. "Medicaid Directors look forward to continuing to work with Vikki and her team to improve Medicaid on behalf of the tens of millions of Americans who rely on the program."

Slavitt praised Wachino's work.

"Those of you who know Vikki know her as a strong voice for consumers, committed and trustworthy partner to states, and consistent advocate for the long-term success and fiscal stewardship of the Medicaid and CHIP programs," he said in the email to staff. "Vikki also shares the department's ongoing commitment to strengthening the quality of care and the patient experience while also better managing costs in the program. Those qualities are more critical than ever as we continue to work on expanding Medicaid, modernizing the program, and building strong delivery systems."

Wachino holds a master's in public policy degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

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