Eight weeks ago, former Republican State Rep. Kirk Mathews, Pacific, was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson to head up the new Medicaid Office of Transformation to review the multibillion dollar health care program across the state of Missouri.
As chief transformation officer, Mathews will answer directly to Medicaid Director Todd Richardson who was asked by Parson to lead the agency earlier this year.
Mathews, who has an extensive health care background, served two terms in the Missouri House representing the 110th District, which mostly encompasses St. Louis County, a small portion of eastern Franklin County, including the city of Pacific, and northern Jefferson County.
Mathews said he and the former Speaker of the House had a very good relationship while serving in the House and getting his new position is an interesting story.
“When (Todd) was appointed director I sent him a text congratulating him,” Mathews explained. “I also texted him to let me know if I could help him out. He simply texted me back saying be careful what I asked for.”
A few weeks later, Mathews was tapped to head up the newly created Office of Transformation, which will operate outside, but parallel to the current state Medicaid office but will still answer to Richardson.
In 2018, the Missouri Legislature approved $6 million of funding for the new office and an additional $29 million in federal funds will round out the $35 million total budget.
“The annual Medicaid budget for the state of Missouri is $10 billion,” Mathews said. “The entire state budget is $30 billion. Medicaid is responsible for 1/3 of the state’s budget and it is growing faster than the state economy.”
As more and more Missourians access the Medicaid system, Mathews commends the Legislature and Gov. Parson for having the foresight to address this problem before it is too late.
“It’s a huge job to be taken very seriously,” he said. “We have a very unique window of opportunity to protect the most vulnerable in our state for the next 40 or 50 years.”
After a $2.7 million report released last month showed the current Missouri Medicaid lacking in several areas, Parson and the Legislature are setting about reforming the system and fixing deficiencies.
Mathews said the report found about a dozen deficiencies and his office will use the report as a guidebook to address the most glaring errors.
“We might not follow everything in the report, but it will put us in the right direction.” Mathews said. “We want to make this a best-in-class Medicaid program.”
The Office of Transformation will consist of some existing Medicaid staff and Mathews said a few new staff members will be hired to conduct the reviews down to the micro levels to make sure the system is serving the people it was designed for.
“One of the first things is to look at the forms people have to fill out and see if they can be more user friendly,” Mathews said. “Right now, they are formatted to meet our needs and not their needs. We will check on call centers. How long does it take to speak to someone? Are people getting frustrated and hanging up and not getting access to services?”
Mathews was first elected to his seat in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016, but did not run again in 2018.
In March of that year Mathews said he was stepping away from public office to tend to a family health issue, but did not rule out the possibility of serving in some public capacity in the future.
In 1997, Mathews started a health care company that grew over 14 years to employ physicians in 19 different states.
During that time, he authored a book on recruiting hospitalists and served on the Public Policy Committee of the Society of Hospital Medicine, the professional society that represents the nation’s 42,000 hospitalists.
Since selling the company in 2011, he joined a real estate business that serves the St. Louis area.
Mathews and his wife of 35 years live in Pacific, and are members of Genesis Church in Eureka. They have four children. His parents reside in New Haven.
During his time in the House, Mathews sponsored or co-sponsored six bills in 2015; 25 in 2016; 13 in 2017; and eight in the 2018 session.
Of the 40-plus bills sponsored in previous years, only one managed to reach the governor’s desk to become law.
The 2018 House Bill 1679 establishes the offense of filing false documents with the intent to defraud, deceive, harass, alarm, or negatively impact, financially or in such a manner reasonably calculated to deceive.