Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement Thursday in which she cited Gomez's “valuable experience and knowledge.”
“I look forward to working with Nico and the OHCA on Oklahoma-based solutions to expand and improve access to quality health care for low-income Oklahomans, children, the elderly and the disabled.”
Fallin late last year decided to reject an expansion of the Medicaid program that would have extended health coverage to an estimated 180,000 low-income Oklahomans who are uninsured. The decision was celebrated by tea party groups and conservative legislators, but criticized by hospital officials and health care professionals who must absorb the costs of the nearly 20 percent of uninsured Oklahomans who often seek health care services at emergency rooms and are unable to pay.
The board on Thursday approved a $500,000 consulting contract with Utah-based Leavitt Partners to analyze and make recommendations for developing an Oklahoma-based plan for increasing health insurance coverage.
The authority's governing board voted unanimously Thursday to appoint 41-year-old Nico Gomez to head the agency that has about 470 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $5 billion. The board approved an annual salary of $152,000, plus additional incentives to be determined later.
Gomez began with the agency as a public information officer in 2000 and currently serves as its deputy chief executive officer.
Board Chairman Ed McFall said Gomez stood out among the 40 applicants because of his experience with the agency and his reputation among state lawmakers.
Gomez will replace longtime CEO Mike Fogarty, who is retiring.