Dr. Mandy Cohen retires

Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the North Carolina Department of Public Health and a person who has regularly updated information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state for two years, is stepping down from office, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

“Dr. Cohen, the people of North Carolina are indebted to you,” Cooper said during a briefing Tuesday by the state’s coronavirus task force. “You have been such a blessing for our state.”

According to the press release, Cohen plans to spend more time with his family, exploring new opportunities to continue his work to improve the state’s health and well-being. There were no details in the press release, and Cohen only said that “a little rest and recovery” awaits her next, calling the past two years “a real marathon.”

She said she discussed her departure with Cooper a few weeks ago.

“While it is difficult to move away, this is the right time for me personally and the right time for our team,” Cohen said during a task force briefing. “It has been a lifelong honor for me to serve this state at such an important historical moment.”

Cohen said she had no plans to run for government office, as some suggested news of her departure. She said she hopes her next steps will keep her and her family in North Carolina looking at a number of opportunities.

Cooper named Cohen, a general practitioner, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in January 2017. She led North Carolina’s COVID-19 response and served as the Governor’s chief advisor and pandemic strategist.

Prior to joining the agency, Cohen was the chief operating officer of the Medicare and Medicaid Centers in the administration of President Barack Obama.

In addition to her role in driving North Carolina’s response to COVID-19, Cohen has become the chief lobbyist for the Governor of Medicaid, the state’s $ 18 billion program that provides health insurance to an estimated 2.5 million people.

From his early days as a secretary, Cohen pushed, albeit unsuccessfully, for Cooper’s goal of expanding Medicaid to reach hundreds of thousands of additional low-income adults through the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Republicans in charge of the legislature still share this idea. But repeated talks with longtime opponent of enlargement, Senate leader Phil Berger, have partly played a role in Berger’s readiness to consider enlargement this year as part of talks with Cooper on the state budget.

In a statement, Berger credited Cohen with the state’s assistance in overcoming the pandemic.

“Secretary Cohen’s leadership throughout her tenure at DHHS has helped our state get through turbulent times,” Berger said. “She has lent herself to lawmakers to answer questions and keep us informed of the issues facing the department. She was also instrumental in the successful implementation of the Medicaid transformation. I want to thank her for her service to the state and wish her every success in her future endeavors. “

In July, Cohen’s agency also began implementing a legislative mandate to move two-thirds of Medicaid recipients from a traditional fee-for-service program to a program that relies on managed care to improve health outcomes and control costs.

Cody Kinsley, the department’s chief undersecretary of health and chief of operations to combat COVID-19, will replace Cohen on January 1, 2022, according to a press release.

Cooper’s office said the Wilmington-born Kinsley would become the first openly gay cabinet minister in state government history. It is subject to state Senate approval, and all but one of Cooper’s cabinet decisions have been Senate approved since he took office in early 2017.

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