The Department of Health and Social Services has created a new position to help the state work toward the goal of expanding Medicaid.
The job is “Medicaid expansion project director” and it’s being filled by Chris Ashenbrenner, who spent two decades working for the department and came out of retirement to take on this challenge.
Ashenbrenner has a lot of experience with federal health policy in Alaska. She was director of the division of public assistance when she retired in 2009 and helped carry out welfare reform and start Alaska’s Denali KidCare program- the Medicaid program for kids.
She says helping the state expand Medicaid is the only job she can imagine coming out of retirement for:
“I saw such great need for people to get healthy,” Ashenbrenner said. ”Be able to get health services and be healthy in order to really lead them to be able to support themselves and their families. It’s such a barrier.”
Ashenbrenner hopes the state can expand Medicaid next summer. But a lot has to happen to make it work. Ashenbrenner has to identify costs, make sure the right systems are in place and work with the community and lawmakers to come up with a plan that will work for Alaska.
Ashenbrenner’s position is a temporary one. She’ll resume her retirement when expansion is complete.