A 13-year employee of the state agency that administers Medicaid in Oklahoma will now take over as its full-time chief executive.
Nico Gomez was hired to succeed Mike Fogarty at the helm of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in a unanimous vote by the agency's board of directors on Thursday.
Gomez, 41, was hired as the agency's public information officer in 2000 and most recently worked as its deputy chief executive. He was selected over three other finalists.
Fogarty announced last year that he will retire in March.
Gomez holds a journalism and public relations degree from the University of Oklahoma and began working for the state in 1995 as a spokesman for the state Transportation Department.
He also holds a master's degree in business administration with an emphasis in health care administration. Gomez will earn $152,000 annually, plus benefits.
Gomez was appointed in 2005 to serve on the state's Medicaid reform task force, and said navigating a new round of reforms in the face of federal cuts will be his first priority as chief executive.
The authority serves 1 million different Oklahomans each year, including 500,000 children, he said.
“And my priority goal is to make sure we are taking care of them in a responsible and appropriate way (and) making sure that our staff have the resources to take care of them,” he said.
He said it will take “outside-the-box” thinking to develop an insurance coverage plan for the state's low-income residents.
Gov. Mary Fallin said Gomez will bring “valuable experience and knowledge” to the table as chief executive of the health care authority.
“I look forward to working with Nico and the (authority) on Oklahoma-based solutions to expand and improve access to quality health care for low-income Oklahomans, children, the elderly and the disabled,” Fallin said.