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Los Angeles Business Journal

Governor fills long-vacant post of managed care director

by Laurence Darmiento
March 29, 2004

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has finally appointed a new director of the state's Department of Managed Health Care, rudderless for more than a year.

Lucinda "Cindy" Ann Ehnes, a former Colorado insurance regulator who briefly worked at the department last year, drew praise from both health plans and consumer advocates.

"We feel very positive about her appointment," said Steve Tough, chief executive of the California Association of Health Plans. "She understands the issues of the health plans and she understands consumer needs."

Ehnes, a Democrat, has been serving as division manager of Self-Funded Health Plans at the California Public Employees Retirement System since December 2003, after a short stint as deputy director of plan and provider relations at the managed care department.

The director's post has been vacant since Daniel Zingale, the department's original director, left to join Gov. Gray Davis' cabinet in January 2003. The department, created in 1999 as part of a series of HMO reform measures, was the first state agency in the nation established to oversee the managed care industry.

Under Zingale's tenure, department regulators sparred with the industry, in one instance fining Kaiser Permanente $ 1 million in 2002 for a lapse of care it contended contributed to a patient's death.

Jerry Flanagan, a health care specialist with the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, said he talked to Ehnes recently and was heartened to hear she was open to some sort of regulation of health care premiums, a priority for the group.

A spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger said Ehnes would not be available for inter views until she had spent some time on the job. The $123,255 post requires Senate confirmation.
Staff reporter Laurence Darmiento can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 237 or at [email protected]