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Texas Health Agency Head Named Louisiana's New Health Secretary

Courtney Phillips/LinkedIn

Gov. John Bel Edwards has officially chosen the new secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health following the departure of Rebekah Gee, the former head of the state’s largest government agency.

Courtney Phillips, the current head of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission, will take over as the LDH secretary in April.

Before leading the Texas health agency, Phillips served as the chief executive officer of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and in a variety of roles over 12 years with the LDH.

"[Phillips’] experience as the head of one of the country's largest health departments is invaluable, and we're excited to welcome her back to Louisiana to serve as the newest secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health," Gov. Edwards said in a press release Wednesday.

In Texas, Phillips supervised a department with 40,000 employees and a $78 billion budget. The Louisiana Department of Health has about 6,300 employees and an annual budget that has grown to $15 billion with the implementation of Medicaid expansion.

>Republican state lawmakers have expressed concern over the growth of the department under Edwards, citing state audits that identified Medicaid fraud among the more than 450,000 people who now receive Medicaid benefits.

The state has been without a permanent Medicaid director since the departure of Jen Steele in December. Edwards told reporters Wednesday that he has “tremendous confidence” in Phillips.

>“We’ve got a lot of work to continue and I think she’s just the right person to do it,” Edwards said.

Phillips is taking a pay cut to return to Louisiana. Gov. Edwards told reporters Wednesday that Phillips would be paid $250,000 per year — $40,000 less than her salary in Texas. At that rate she would be tied with Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson as the highest-paid cabinet official in the state.

“It’s an honor to return home and serve the people of this great state, as the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health,” Phillips said. “The opportunity in which my career began and ignited my passion for service, is one I do not take lightly.”

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.