TOPEKA The state's new inspector general for its privatized Medicaid program can't conduct oversight work until he is confirmed by the Kansas Senate, which isn't in session.
Phil Hermanson began work in April as inspector general, charged with identifying fraud in the state's Medicaid system known as KanCare. The former Kansas House member has no investigatory or auditing expertise.
Sara Belfry, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told the Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday that Hermanson would be limited in what duties he could perform in the $77,000 job.
"He is acting until Senate confirmation," said Sara Belfry, spokeswoman at KDHE. "He cannot perform powers and duties without Senate confirmation."
State law governing inspector general duties specifies that any appointee must be approved by the Senate before the individual is allowed to begin performing actual oversight duties.
Belfry said Hermanson would be able to be involved in training programs until he's formally approved.
The appointment was made by KDHE Secretary Robert Moser following an interview process, Belfry said. Hermanson has acknowledged having a DUI conviction and business bankruptcy, as well as campaign ethics problems.
Legislators are not scheduled to return until January 2015, but confirmations can be approved temporarily by a Senate committee in the intervening months then voted upon by the full Senate during the regular session.
Alyson Rodee, spokeswoman for Senate President Susan Wagle, said Friday that a meeting date for the Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee would be set later this summer when legislative leaders met to set interim committee schedules.
KanCare is the state's Medicaid program for poor, elderly and disabled residents. There are more than 400,000 individuals in the program, which is administered by three private, managed care companies.
Hermanson began his duties on April 28. The Capital-Journal reported that Hermanson said on social media that he was the inspector general, but made no reference to acting or interim status.
Legislators returned to Topeka on April 30 to conclude their business for the year, finishing on May 3 without taking up Hermanson's appointment.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the lack of a confirmation raised questions about why and how Hermanson was appointed.
"This is one of the more bizarre appointments I've seen," Hensley said.
Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican and chairman of a legislative KanCare oversight committee, has said that Hermanson's past merited monitoring his performance in his role as inspector general.