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Doctor to head social services agency

Pence taps ex-director to oversee HIP 2.0

– Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday announced John J. Wernert will be the new head of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Secretary Debra Minott submitted her resignation last week after Pence said he wanted to go in a new direction at the agency.

A news release said Wernert, from Carmel, is the first medical doctor in the history of FSSA to serve in the role.

“With more than two decades in the medical field serving some of our most vulnerable Hoosiers, Dr. John J. Wernert has the expertise, character and history of service to lead Indiana’s Family & Social Services Administration,” Pence said. “With his extensive background in medical practice and administration, Dr. Wernert is uniquely qualified to lead the Family & Social Services Administration during this time of opportunity and transition.”

Pence also tapped Michael Gargano as deputy secretary for operations and HIP 2.0. In this position, Gargano will lead preparations for the implementation of an expanded health care plan for the poor, if approved by federal officials.

As part of this effort, he will align agency priorities to ensure that HIP 2.0 is ready to accept enrollees in a timely and successful manner, a release said.

Gargano was running FSSA when Pence took office in 2013 but the governor chose to hire Minott instead.

News reports indicate Minott’s sudden exit might be linked to how quickly the new HIP program could get up and running.

“Michael Gargano is a proven leader whose knowledge and firsthand experience within Indiana’s Family & Social Services Administration will serve our new Secretary, the State, and some of our most vulnerable citizens with professionalism and integrity,” Pence said. “I am grateful that Michael Gargano is returning to public service at a time of great opportunity for this agency and the Hoosiers who depend upon it.”

Indiana is set to finalize a waiver request to the federal government within days seeking permission to provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers under a modified plan largely funded by the Affordable Care Act.

Minott’s departure is effective July 5. Gargano will serve as interim secretary of FSSA from July 6 to July 21, when Wernert will assume the role.