Pence names social services chief after sudden exit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence picked a new secretary Wednesday to run the Family and Social Services Administration and created a position overseeing his proposed alternative to traditional Medicaid.

Pence announced that Carmel psychiatrist John Wernert would take over the state's largest agency, the first medical doctor to oversee it. Meanwhile, former FSSA secretary Michael Gargano will return in a new role as deputy secretary for operations and the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, Pence said.

"With more than two decades in the medical field serving some of our most vulnerable Hoosiers, Dr. John J. Wernert has the expertise, character, and history of service to lead Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration," Pence said in a prepared statement.

Wernert is the medical director of medical management at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis and was the medical director for behavioral health integration for the Franciscan Alliance health system.

He'll replace outgoing Secretary Debra Minott, who unexpectedly announced her resignation last week; neither Pence nor Minott have explained her sudden departure. Gargano, who led the agency until Pence took office last January, is returning in the new role overseeing Pence's insurance expansion plan.

The Pence administration is in the middle of pitching the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Indiana's proposal to use the state-run Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to expand Medicaid, and will submit its application at the end of the month.

Pence and other Indiana Republicans have consistently opposed using traditional Medicaid to expand coverage for low-income residents. Instead, the governor has said the state-run plan would promote personal responsibility among low-income residents.

If the application is approved, residents earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would be allowed to enroll in a hybrid-health savings account plan. The state estimates that more than 457,000 low-income residents could enroll in the program by 2020.


  • Just Pence trying to get HIP 2.0 Implemented
    From what I've been able to ascertain, there has been no wrong doing, just a disagreement on policy and implementation of HIP 2.0. I think there will be more changes within FSSA due to the Chief of Staff's departure and replacement by Mr. Gargano as head of operations. If I was a recently hire at FSSA and came there from the BMV, I'd be looking to make a move before it becomes necessary.
  • Minott Is Free At Last
    Ms. Minott's op/ed piece in the Indy Star earlier this year defending Pence's Healthy Indiana Plan was pitiful, both in logic and presentation. She was either woefully over her head in the FSSA position or struggling to defend Pence's bonehead position on the HIP. Perhaps, the resignation frees her to be herself again--free at last, free at last.
  • Ms. Minott's Integrity
    In response to the comment about potential misdeeds or mismanagement at FSSA, those who have had the opportunity to work with Debra Minott know her to be a person of the very highest integrity. People closest to the situation have characterized this as a political decision by Pence related to HIP 2.0 expansion, not a management decision. I very much doubt there will be misdeeds or wrongdoing found that are attributable to Ms. Minott.
  • Former FSSA Head Minot's Sudden Regignation
    We've had numerous occurrences at various levels of government when the head of an agency abruptly resigned without publicly revealing their reason. In many of those instances, revelations of internal misdeeds or mismanagement, whether or not having risen to the level of illegal, led to investigations to ferret out the truth. i wonder if there is some mismanagement or illegal activities, as opposed to simple disagreement, behind what appears on the surface to have been Ms. Minot's unexpected resignation. Being the state's largest agency, i believe if there's mismanagement or illegal activity involved, we should know sooner than later. Just my belief.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

    2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

    3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

    4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

    5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.