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Haveman steps down as DCH director after suffering mild stroke

September 2, 2014

Jim HAVEMAN, credited as a major force behind implementing Medicaid expansion here in Michigan, announced Thursday his resignation as director of the Department of Community Health (DCH). 

Haveman, 71, said Thursday he reconsidered his timeline for serving out his term as the DCH director after suffering what he called a mild stroke on Memorial Day. 

His resignation would be effective September 12. He had planned on staying on through 2015. 

Without Haveman, Gov. Rick SNYDER’s major health policy initiative might not have gotten off the ground as smoothly as it has, with more than 373,000 enrollees signed up less than a year in, health policy experts said today. 

“It wouldn’t have been implemented as effectively without Jim’s leadership,” said Richard MURDOCK, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans (MAHP). 

David FINKBEINER, senior vice president for advocacy at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHHA), said Haveman played a strong role when the program known as Healthy Michigan was trekking its way through the Legislature. 

“Director Haveman was very active and responsive to legislative concerns related to the Healthy Michigan plan,” he said. “If they had not been addressed, the chances for passage would’ve been much less.” 

Haveman said his resignation was his choice. 

“Right now, I just need a different pace,” he said. As for his condition now, Haveman said he’s fine. 

Haveman was appointed director of DCH in 2012, according to the Governor’s office. Previously, Haveman served as the DCH director from 1996 to 2003 and Department of Mental Health director from 1991 to 1996. 

Haveman also was tapped by former President George W. BUSH to help build the new health system in Iraq and did multiple tours of duty there (See “Haveman Going Back To Iraq,” 10/10/08). 

The Governor’s office celebrated Haveman’s accomplishments in a press release, including leading on the 4×4 health plan and recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission. 

When asked what the most important initiative accomplished under his watch was, Haveman said Healthy Michigan would be a “key memory” for him. 

Enrollment for expanded access to Medicaid for low-income people began April 1 and surpassed its first year goal of 322,000 enrollees in early July (See “Medicaid Expansion Enrollment Surpasses First Year Goal,” 7/10/14).  

“People got on board because they’ve seen . . . how lives change,” Haveman said. “We’re now getting into the story of people . . . who had carpal tunnel who couldn’t work, who are now going back to work, people who had tremendous dental needs now have dental coverage.” 

But the expansion of Medicaid has been a consistent attack point for conservatives who are against any aspect of President Barack OBAMA’s Affordable Care Act. 

When asked to reflect on the criticism of Medicaid expansion now that it’s been around for a few months, Haveman said, “It’s the right thing to do,” noting many personal bankruptcies were related to a lack of health insurance and that “it’s a great investment, if the dollars weren’t being spent here they would’ve gone elsewhere and people would’ve just been taxed.” 

Plus, Haveman said, “Quite honestly, the Medicaid expansion issue had minimal impact if anything on any of the primary elections.” 

DCH Chief Deputy Director Nick LYON was appointed as the new DCH director. Lyon served as deputy director of the DCH Operations Administration from 2010 to 2011 and as deputy director of the Health Policy and Regulation Administration from 2003 to 2008, according to the Governor’s office. The Yale graduate also has served in the state budget office and the Attorney General’s office. 

Haveman said Lyon handled management information systems at DCH and was the lead on Medicaid expansion in terms of IT activities. 

“He’s got great people skills and great management skills and he’ll be a great partner with the cabinet,” Haveman said. 

Snyder released the following statement today after the Governor announced he accepted Haveman’s resignation: 

“Director Haveman’s leadership has been instrumental as we’ve navigated an ambitious health and wellness agenda that has led to inclusive, bipartisan support to implement a number of key health initiatives that are making a real difference in Michiganders’ lives. Jim’s commitment to the health and wellness of our residents has been evident in all that we’ve accomplished and I am grateful for his work. I understand and respect his decision to focus on his health and wish him and his family all the best. I know that Nick Lyon will be able to step in and continue the tremendous work and progress underway.” 

As for what he planned to do next, Haveman replied, “blue sky,” and added that he’s not jumping into anything right away. 

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