John Selig, the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, announced in a DHS press release today that he will leave the department at the end of the year.
Selig, 55, was appointed to the position in 2005 by Gov. Mike Huckabee and is the state’s longest serving DHS director.
“I have loved working at DHS because I truly feel it makes a real and positive difference in the lives of so many Arkansans,” Selig said in the release. “It’s hard to leave, but I feel like the time is right. DHS may see some big changes next year, and I think that would be a good time for new leadership.”
In a statement released by his office, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Yesterday, Director Selig informed me that he wished to leave government service in order to spend some time in the private sector. I asked if he would be willing to stay on through the end of the year. I am grateful that John agreed to help us through January 1, 2016. John has given so much to the state of Arkansas through 25 years of service. I am personally appreciative of his leadership, friendship and wise counsel during a time of great change in the healthcare industry and during the first year of my administration.”
Selig informed employees of his decision Thursday morning. He has been with the department a total of 25 years. He began working in state government in 1988 and served as special assistant to the DHS director before leaving DHS in 1994 for the Department of Health, where he was director of in-home health services. Two years later, Selig was again working for DHS as director of Behavioral Health Services. He leaves a job that pays $162,647.68 annually.
Selig has overseen many changes at the Department of Human Services, including the state’s transition under the Affordable Care Act, the development of the private option, and the current transition to the state’s ICD-10 coding system.
But he has faced scrutiny from legislators, particularly regarding the state’s difficulties in transitioning to a new Medicaid enrollment system whose price tag has ballooned to $200 million, more than twice the original expectation. Last November, Gov.-Elect Asa Hutchinson said he had asked Selig to “stay on for the time” as DHS director while the new governor implemented his agenda.
In June 2015, lawmakers questioned Selig on a $15.4 million contract that DHS had with McKinsey and Company. The contract was done to study aspects of the state’s Medicaid program. However, legislators wanted to know if the state agency was able to handle multiple contracts.
Later in the month, Hutchinson said his office would be increasing oversight and scrutiny on so-called “high risk” DHS contracts.
“I want the General Assembly to know the steps that this administration is taking to deal with these contracts that have been problematic, and problems that have surfaced last year have continued to fester,” the governor told reporters. “We have taken a number of steps in terms of oversight, not only for these contracts but also the entire procurement process.”
Hutchinson also said that he was looking at “systematic” procurement and contract issues at DHS, but was also taking steps to address specific concerns with past and current vendor contracts with the state.
On Wednesday, The Stephen Group, a consultant hired by the Health Care Reform Legislative Task Force, reported that a LexisNexis search revealed that almost 43,000 enrollees in the state’s Medicaid and private option programs have best addresses that are not in Arkansas.
Ray Hanley, a former state Medicaid director and current director of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, said Selig has been “as calm and collected and unflappable as anybody I’ve seen in that job.” He called it “surely the hardest job in state government.”
“They’re going to be criticized no matter how well they’re run because the job by nature is done in a political fishbowl,” he said. “You’ve got the media. You’ve got 135 legislators. You’ve got the press. You’ve got the feds. You’ve got the advocates who are often vocal, thousands of health care providers, law enforcement. There is not any job, unless it’s the governor’s job, that touches as many segments of the state than that job does. …
“I think he did a fine job, and the fact that he’s survived through three governors I think is testament to that.”
According to the release, Selig received a master’s of public administration from Princeton and earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford. He previously was a staff member for Sen. David Pryor and served two years as a teacher in West Africa with the Peace Corps.
Editor’s note: Steve Brawner and Michael Wilkey contributed to this report.